Baghdad cancels Turkish defence minister’s visit over drone attack
BAGHDAD –Iraq cancelled on Tuesday the Turkish defence minister’s visit to the country, which was scheduled for Thursday, Iraq’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry also summoned the Turkish ambassador to hand him “a strong protest note and inform him of Iraq’s confirmed rejection of his country’s attacks and violations,” the statement added.
Iraqi activists have called on Baghdad to react more decisively to Turkish violations of its territorial integrity. Iraqi authorities should threaten to boycott Turkish goods and forbid its airspace to Turkish planes.
A Turkish drone strike on Tuesday in the Sidakan area in north-eastern Iraq, near the Turkish and Iranian borders, killed two commanders in Iraq’s border guard and the driver of the vehicle they were in, the Iraqi military said.
The incident marked the first time that Turkey’s operation to root out Kurdish rebels in Iraq’s north produced fatalities among high-ranking Iraqi personnel.
The drone targeted a vehicle belonging to the Border Guards in the Bradost area, north of Erbil, the military statement said, causing the deaths of two commanders and the vehicle’s driver.
General Mohammed Rushdi, commander of the Border Guards’ 2nd Brigade and Brigadier Zubair Hali, commander of the 3rd Regiment, were killed in the attack, Ihsan Chelebi, the mayor of Bradost, told The Associated Press. He said they had been establishing new posts in the area.
Attempts to reach Turkish military officials for comment were not successful.
Two Iraqi security officials said the Border Guard commanders were meeting secretly with members of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, during the attack. Turkey considers the PKK a “terrorist organisation” and has bombed their positions inside northern Iraq in several operations.
A PKK official in northern Iraq said the meeting had taken place in Bradost. “The purpose of the meeting was to bring stability to the area,” he said.
Security officials said five others were also killed in the attack. They did not say whether they were military personnel or civilians.
On June 17, Ankara launched an airborne-and-land offensive into the border region of Haftanin, some 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the Turkey-Iraq border.
The operation drew the ire of Iraqi officials who on two occasions summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad to deliver a protest note. The killing of the high-ranking Iraqi officials is expected to further strain Iraq’s relations with Turkey.
Turkey has defended its operations in northern Iraq, saying neither the Iraqi government nor the regional Iraqi Kurdish administration have acted to remove PKK insurgents who allegedly use Iraq’s territory to stage attacks on Turkey.