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Who are the MKO and why did Iraqi forces storm their camp?

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Iraqi security forces today violently wrested control of the sprawling compound of an exiled Iranian opposition movement, killing at least seven of its residents in the process.

The raid was the latest assertion of total military independence by Iraqi forces from US control. Video of the event, with Iraqi soldiers delivering severe beatings to unarmed residents, adds evidence of brutal tactics within the new Iraqi Army.

But it also may be the beginning of the end of the one the strangest sideshows of the entire Iraq war as the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flexes its muscles and seeks closer ties with Tehran.

The raid came as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had long urged Iraq against a violent takeover of the camp, visited the country on Wednesday. Though the Iraqi government had repeatedly asked the Iranian exile group, the Mujahidin e Khalq (MKO, or People’s Mujahedin), to leave the country, US officials said the raid came as a surprise and the BBC quoted US Gen. Ray Odierno as saying the government had promised to deal with the MKO in a “humane fashion.” (The BBC article also has video of the beginning of the raid.)

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