Mazloum Abdi, the commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), confirmed that he was targeted for assassination near the international airport in Sulaimaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, on Friday, according to an exclusive report by Al-Monitor.
A drone exploded nearby, causing a small fire but no damage or casualties.
Turkey is widely believed to be behind the attack, though Turkish defense ministry officials have denied any involvement, according to Agence France-Presse. Abdi called the drone strike “a flagrant attack on Iraq and its sovereignty.”
US Central Command confirmed that three US military officials were also in the convoy, and the Pentagon said the strikes “directly threatened the safety of US personnel.”
Abdi said he was in Sulaimaniyah on routine US-led coalition business, working within a joint program to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). He said this was not the first time Turkey had sought to kill him, citing a previous attack on a base used by the SDF and US-led coalition forces.
The SDF leader suggested that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might be using the conflict to mobilize his nationalist base in the run-up to Turkey’s May 14 elections. He added that Turkey’s actions had not weakened his resolve to continue working with the United States in the battle against jihadis.
Abdi has repeatedly denied posing any threat to Turkey and said the SDF denies any organizational ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and much of the international community.
The Al-Monitor report also mentioned that tensions between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) could escalate due to this incident. The PUK accused the KDP of being involved in an “intelligence and espionage plot” that led to the attack on Sulaimaniyah International Airport.