Iraqi PM Mustafa Al Kadhimi issues stark warning to Turkey after bomb attack

Explosion that killed eight tourists in the northern Kurdish region unites Iraqis in anger

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Wednesday’s attack on a tourist resort in Dohuk in the semi-autonomous Kurdish Region of Iraq drew strong international condemnation on Thursday.

The attack, which killed eight civilians, including three children, also stoked tension in Iraq as an Iran-backed militia group claimed to have attacked Turkish forces in the north and protesters surrounded the Turkish embassy in Baghdad.

Some of the strongest condemnation came from the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, who has in the past come in for political criticism for tolerating the presence of Turkish forces in the Kurdish-majority north.

Iraq reserves the "right to retaliate”, Mr Al Kadhimi warned Turkey. Other Iraqi politicians and Iraq’s Foreign Ministry used softer language, saying the issue would be raised at the UN Security Council. Iraq’s Ministry of Culture also said Iraqis must not travel to Turkey and visas were no longer being issued as a protest erupted outside the Turkish visa application office in Baghdad.

Safeen Dizayee, the head of the Kurdish Regional Government’s department of foreign relations, said Turkey should be involved in a joint investigation. Mr Al Kadhimi has already sent a team from the federal government to investigate the attack.

Next week, the Iraqi parliament will hold an “urgent session” to discuss the presence of Turkish forces, who operate mainly from a base at Bashiqa, about 65 kilometres from Erbil.

Meanwhile, Iraqi paramilitary groups linked to Iran appeared to try to capitalise on public anger.

Iran-backed militia Ashab Al Kahf, which has claimed attacks on Turkish and US forces in recent years, said on Thursday it had attacked two Turkish positions with drones. The Turkish military made no comment on the attacks or whether there were casualties.

Iran-linked militias have previously launched attacks against US military and diplomatic targets in the Kurdish region, as well as Turkish forces.

In Tehran, the foreign ministry spokesman said: "Iran considers the security of Iraq as its own security and will not hesitate to provide any assistance in this regard."

In Baghdad, loudspeakers blared out patriotic songs as protesters chanted slogans demanding the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador, having gathered outside Turkey’s visa office, an AFP journalist reported.

Protesters brandished portraits of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labelled "terrorist" and trampled Turkish flags underfoot.

"We want to burn down the embassy, the ambassador must be expelled," said demonstrator Ali Yassin, 53. "Our government is doing nothing."

'This only happens in Iraq'

There were similar protests on Wednesday night in the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala and in the southern city of Nasiriyah.

Among the dead was Abbas Alaa, 24, an engineer married for barely a week, said a friend who gave his name as Nour.

Alaa was on his honeymoon — his first-ever trip, Nour said — and his wife was wounded.

"We can't believe it," said Nour, who waited with other friends at a modest Baghdad home for relatives to return with his body.

"This doesn't happen in any other country, only Iraq."

International condemnation continued to pour in on Wednesday. Germany said it placed great importance on the “respect for Iraq’s state sovereignty and upholding international law”#.

US ambassador to Iraq Alina L Romanowski said the “killing of civilians is unacceptable, and all states must respect their obligations under international law, including obligations under international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians”.

Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office released a statement to “express our support for the Iraqi authorities in their investigations".

Iraq and Turkey are trade partners but Ankara's successive offensives against PKK rear bases in the north have been a persistent source of tension, particularly when they have led to civilian casualties.

The UAE strongly condemned the "criminal acts".

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation expressed the UAE's solidarity with measures taken by Iraq to protect its sovereignty, security and stability.

The ministry also expressed condolences and sympathy to the government and people of Iraq, as well as to the families of the victims.

Updated: July 22, 2022, 3:40 PM