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Iraq condemns Turkish strikes against PKK in Kurdistan region

Ankara claims it killed four PKK members in a Qandil mountains airstrike in Iraq northeast of Erbil, but Kurds report only physical damage there; Baghdad says Turkey did kill three civilians in Makhmour, to the southwest of Erbil.

In what it called a flagrant violation of its sovereignty, Iraq says Turkish airstrikes inside its airspace targeted a refugee camp and killed three civilians Wednesday.  

“We deplore the penetration of Iraqi airspace by Turkish aircraft,” the Iraqi government-affiliated Security Media Cell wrote on Twitter. “This provocative behavior is inconsistent with the obligations of good neighbors.” 

On Wednesday, news outlets in Iraq’s Kurdistan region reported that that an strike killed three civilians near a refugee camp in the mountainous Makhmour region and that another airstrike destroyed a shelter in the city of Rawanduz belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed Turkish insurgent group. Turkey has attacked the refugee camp before, saying it is a haven for the PKK; The Associated Press quoted Iraqi officials today as saying the strike was made with a drone.

The shelter bombing, which took place just 200 meters away from a peshmerga headquarters northeast of Erbil, took out two telecommunications towers, a local official told Rudaw. Turkey’s Defense Ministry said, “Turkish fighter jets neutralized four PKK terrorists,” according to a statement carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency. The ministry said the jets struck Wednesday in the Qandil region near the Iraq-Iran border. 

Under its military campaign dubbed “Operation Claw,” Turkey has been targeting PKK strongholds in neighboring Iraq, which it says are used by the militants to launch cross-border attacks inside Turkey. In January, Turkish airstrikes killed at least four Yazidi fighters affiliated with the PKK in northern Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain region. 

As Iraq reported civilian casualties from Wednesday's strikes, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said one of its soldiers was killed in a separate attack south of its border in Iraq's Hakurk region. 

“A hero fellow soldier was martyred by the explosion of a mine/handmade explosive previously placed by terrorists from the separatist terrorist organization PKK,” the ministry said in a statement today. 

The PKK’s decades-long violent insurgency against the Turkish state has left more than 40,000 dead on both sides. Ankara, the United States and the European Union all label the Kurdish militant group a terrorist organization.   

In October 2019, Turkey launched a military operation in northern Syria to drive away from its border the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), elements of which Ankara views as terrorists linked to the PKK.