Turkey’s foreign ministry has said a drone strike that killed three Kurdish counterterrorism officers in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Monday has confirmed the “appropriateness of the measures” Turkey has taken regarding the city of Sulaymaniyah.
Three members of the counterterrorism forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region were killed and three were wounded in the drone strike on Arbat airfield, southeast of the region’s second city of Sulaymaniyah.
Around 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) Monday, “the drone entered Iraqi airspace, crossing the border from Turkey, and bombarded the Arbat airfield,” which is mainly used by crop-spraying aircraft, said Gen. Yehya Rassoul, spokesman for the federal armed forces commander in chief.
As the Turkish military has remained silent about the incident, the foreign ministry released a statement late on Tuesday, accusing the regional counterterrorism forces, affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), of training with “PKK/YPG terrorists” at the time of the explosion, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community. Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the PKK even though it has been backed by the United States as part of an anti-Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition.
“This development is quite disturbing as it has clearly revealed the cooperation between the PUK’s security apparatus and members of the terrorist organization. This latest incident has also confirmed once again the accuracy of the measures we have taken regarding Sulaymaniyah, the people of which are almost taken hostage by the terrorist organization,” said the ministry in its statement.
Turkey has stepped up its drone strikes on Kurdish targets in both Iraq and Syria in recent months, although deaths among the Iraqi Kurdish security forces remain rare.
Meanwhile, Iraqi President Abdel Latif Rashid condemned “repeated Turkish attacks” in the autonomous Kurdish region, saying the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad would be summoned regarding Monday’s incident.
“The Turkish ambassador will be called in to receive a letter of protest addressed to the Turkish president,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Rashid’s office said in a statement.
“Mercy be on the martyrs of Iraq, the civilian and military heroes killed by repeated Turkish attacks,” the presidency said, after the PUK in power in Sulaymaniyah had also condemned Monday’s “terrorist attack.”
Fighting between the Turkish military and the PKK militants from Turkey has for decades spilled over into Iraqi Kurdistan, a rugged mountain region where both sides operate military bases.
In another incident on Sunday, a Turkish drone strike killed a senior official and three PKK militants in the Sinjar Mountains of northwestern Iraq, Iraqi Kurdish authorities said.