Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Deputy Prime Minister Kubad Talabani has said Kurdish counterterrorism officers in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region were not carrying out a joint training with any militant groups at the time of a drone strike on Arbat airfield on Monday, the Rudaw news website reported.
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. Iraqi officials said the drone came from Turkey.
Talabani’s remarks came in response to a statement from the Turkish foreign ministry on Tuesday that accused the regional counterterrorism forces, affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), of training with “PKK/YPG terrorists” at the time of the attack, 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.
Talabani, who described the drone strike as a “dangerous development,” said it targeted Kurdistan’s counterterrorism forces, which he said have been fighting against terrorism since its establishment 20 years ago.
He said all those who were killed or injured in the attack were members of the counterterrorism forces and that there were no members of any other group at the airfield.
Talabani called on the Iraqi government, its allies and the European Union to take action to protect the territorial integrity of Iraq and to prevent similar attacks in the future.
As the Turkish military has remained silent about the incident, the foreign ministry said the incident has confirmed “once again the appropriateness of the measures we have taken regarding Sulaymaniyah, the people of which have almost been taken hostage by the terrorist organization.”
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.
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.