Iraq accuses Turkey of attack that killed nine in Kurdistan

By George Wright

BBC News

Iraq officials inspect the site of the attackImage source, Reuters

Image caption,

Iraq says it believes Turkish forces carried out the attack

A diplomatic row has erupted between Iraq and Turkey after nine civilians were killed when artillery shells hit a park in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Most of the victims were Iraqi tourists and children were among the dead. At least 23 people were wounded.

Local officials blamed Turkish forces and Iraq is recalling its charge d’affaires from Ankara.

Turkey is suggesting that forces belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) carried out the strike.

The “fierce artillery bombing” hit a park in Zakho, a city on the border between Iraq’s Kurdistan region and Turkey, Iraq state TV said.

Children, including a one-year-old baby, were among the victims, the Kurdish health minister said.

Hassan Tahsin Ali, a man injured in the attack, called the attacks “indiscriminate”.

“Our young people are dead, our children are dead, who should we turn to? We have only God,” he told the AFP news agency from in front of a hospital.

Iraq has summoned the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad to demand an apology, as well as pulling its charge d’affaires from the Turkish capital.

“The Turkish forces committed blatant violation of the sovereignty of Iraq,” Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi tweeted.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

People demonstrated at a Turkish visa centre in Karbala

The Turkish flag was burned by protesters outside a Turkish visa centre in the Iraqi city of Karbala, while demonstrations also took place in Baghdad and Nassiriyah.

The United States condemned the shelling.

“The killing of civilians is unacceptable, and all states must respect their obligations under international law, including the protection of civilians,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Turkey has been mounting one of its periodic offensives against Kurdish fighters, who have bases in the region. Its latest offensive in northern Iraq started around three months ago and is aimed at targeting the PKK.

But Turkey’s foreign ministry said Wednesday’s attacks were committed by “terrorist organisations”. It said that the Iraqi government should not be influenced by “terrorist propaganda”, in reference to the PKK.

The PKK calls for greater Kurdish self-governance and is involved in an armed struggle with the Turkish state. The group is considered a terror group by the EU, US and UK.

Kurds make up 15-20% of Turkey’s population but have faced persecution there for generations. The government in Ankara is trying to ban the pro-Kurdish HDP party, the third biggest in parliament.

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