Iraqi President Abdel Latif Rashid condemned Turkey on Saturday for bombarding an area near Sulaimaniyah airport in the autonomous Kurdish region, a flashpoint between the two governments, Agence France-Presse reported.
“Turkish military operations against the Kurdistan region continue to take place, the last being the bombardment [Friday] against Sulaimaniyah civilian airport,” Rashid said in a statement.
Rashid, who is himself a Kurd from Sulaimaniyah, said such actions by Turkish forces have “no legal justification” and serve only to “terrorize civilians under the pretext that hostile forces are present in Iraq.”
He was referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has a presence in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and is blacklisted as a “terrorist” organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Contacted by AFP, a source at the Turkish defense ministry denied any involvement in Friday’s bombardment, saying, “Turkish armed forces undertook no such activity.”
The afternoon bombardment caused a small fire near the airport that was quickly brought under control, a statement from airport security said.
Turkey has repeatedly sought to remove the rebel PKK group in air and, ground operations using drones to target them.
On Monday Ankara halted flights to and from Sulaimaniyah until at least July 3, blaming increased PKK activity in and around the airport.
The Turkish foreign ministry said at the time that PKK activities were posing a “threat” to air security.
In early March a Turkish drone strike in northern Iraq killed two Yazidi fighters affiliated with the PKK, days after a similar strike killed three other fighters.
The PKK has waged an insurgency in Turkey that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.
Turkey has also carried out several incursions into neighboring Syria to push back Kurdish-led fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara considers to be an extension of the PKK.
On Saturday SDF leader Mazloum Abdi denounced the bombardment against Sulaimaniyah airport, saying it was a sign of Turkish irritation at the support given to the SDF by the province’s dominant faction, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Turkey regards the SDF and its main component, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as an offshoot of the PKK, even though the force is backed by the United States as the mainstay of its campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria.