A Turkish drone strike in northern Iraq on Tuesday killed three Yazidi fighters affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Agence France-Presse reported, citing an Iraqi Kurdish security official.
It is the latest deadly strike blamed on Turkey in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, where the PKK — whose fighters are Turkish Kurds — has rear bases.
The Turkish military maintains dozens of bases in northern Iraq and carries out air strikes and ground operations against the PKK, which is classified as a “terrorist” group by Ankara and much of the international community.
“A Turkish drone strike on Tuesday afternoon targeted a position of the Sinjar Resistance Units in the locality of Khanasor,” the anti-terrorist services of Iraqi Kurdistan region said in a statement, referring to the PKK-linked Yazidi movement.
Tuesday’s strike is the first officially reported in Iraq since the first round of Turkey’s presidential election held Sunday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will face his first-ever runoff on May 28, after two decades in power, but chances are remote that his challenger from the secular opposition, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, will win.
Since 1984 the PKK has waged an insurgency in Turkey that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, and for many years the fighting between Turkey’s armed forces and Kurdish militants has spilled over into Iraq’s mountainous Kurdish north.
On April 16 officials blamed a drone strike carried out by Turkey for killing at least two people and wounding two others in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
The strikes near the town of Penjwen, close to the Iranian border, targeted a vehicle carrying PKK fighters, one official said at the time.
On April 7 drone strikes also blamed on Turkey targeted the surroundings of Sulaimaniyah airport, when the commander of the Kurdish-led and US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were present, as well as US troops.
A source at the Turkish defense ministry denied any involvement by the country’s military.
On April 3 Ankara halted flights to and from Sulaimaniyah until at least July 3, blaming increased PKK activity in and around the airport.
Turkey regards the SDF and its main component, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as an offshoot of the PKK.
In July artillery strikes blamed on Turkey hit a park in Iraqi Kurdistan, killing nine, which Ankara denied responsibility for and blamed the PKK.
Baghdad and Arbil, Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, have long been accused of ignoring the situation to preserve their strategic alliances with Ankara, only offering symbolic condemnations of violations of Iraq’s sovereignty and the impact on civilians.
Turkey is one of war-battered Iraq’s main trading partners and until March, Arbil was exporting oil directly to Turkey, independently of the federal government in Baghdad.