Nationalist party leader says at least 5K volunteers ready for operation in northern Iraq

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Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party's leader (MHP) Devlet Bahceli speaks during a press conference at the party headquarters in Ankara on August 24, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli said on Wednesday that over 5,000 people from his party’s Grey Wolves (Ülkü Ocakları) youth wing are ready to take part in an operation in northern Iraq to defend Turkmens if they are targeted after an independence referendum on Monday for a free Kurdish state.

In a written statement on Wednesday, Bahçeli said: “At least 5,000 Grey Wolves are ready to participate in the struggle of the Turkmen people in Turkmen cities [in northern Iraq], including Kirkuk. The Turkmens are not alone. We will not let them suffer a bitter genocide and will not leave them stateless.”

Despite warnings from the Baghdad administration and abroad, including from Ankara and Washington, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a referendum on Monday for a separate Kurdistan state in northern Iraq.

The results show that 93.29 percent of 282,017 people voted in favor of separation from Baghdad and the formation of an independent Kurdistan state.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday issued a press release describing the independence referendum as “null” and “void” and said that Turkey does not recognize the referendum, which lacks international legitimacy.

Calling the decision to hold the independence referendum on Monday an act of “treason” against Turkey, President Tayyip Erdoğan said the rate of participation in the referendum and the results were suspicious.

Those who are provoking you today will leave you alone tomorrow, but we will continue to live together for thousands of years. Don’t destroy your tomorrow by your ambition today. The fact that Israeli flags are waving there will not save you, you should know that,” Erdoğan said.

Meanwhile, Turkish and Iraqi armed forces launched a joint military exercise on the Turkish-Iraqi border, in the Silopi district of Turkey’s Şırnak province.

Threatening the KRG administration with cutting off oil exports and halting the flow of food and other goods through its border gates over the independence referendum, Erdoğan also said the Turkish armed forces could suddenly launch an operation one night in the region.

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