Iraq summons Turkish ambassador over northern attack on PKK fighters

Ankara launched a new air and ground offensive against the Kurdish rebels

View of a target being hit during a military operation, in this still image taken from a handout video at an unknown location released on April 18, 2022.  Turkish Defence Ministry

Iraq has summoned Turkey's ambassador and condemned its latest military offensive in its northern territories against the proscribed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Ankara said early on Monday it had launched an air and ground offensive against Kurdish fighters in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

At least 19 suspected Kurdish rebels were killed, while four Turkish soldiers were wounded, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said.

"The ministry handed the Turkish ambassador Ali Reza Guney a strongly worded letter protesting and calling for an end to Turkey's provocative acts and its unacceptable violations of Iraqi soil," Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Al Sahaf said.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar speaks dring a meeting with military personnel at a command center, in Ankara, Turkey, in this still image taken from a handout video released April 18, 2022.  Turkish Defence Ministry

The Iraqi official said his government has renewed its demand for the withdrawal of all Turkish forces from its land.

"Iraq has the legal right to take the necessary and appropriate measures in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and the rules of international law to face such hostile and unilateral acts," Mr Al Sahaf said.

Baghdad has repeatedly said the presence of Turkish troops in the country was a “blatant breach of the UN charter” unauthorised by the government.

Earlier on Monday the Iraqi Foreign Ministry condemned Ankara's military actions.

“Iraq categorically rejects and strongly condemns the military operations carried out by the Turkish forces by bombing Iraqi lands through helicopters and drones,” Mr Al Sahaf said.

“Ankara’s actions violate the principle of good neighbourliness and Iraq will not be headquarters for harming any of its neighbouring countries.

“We refuse that Iraq becomes an area for conflict and for other countries to settle scores."

Populist Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr warned Ankara about its operations in the country.

Mr Al Sadr said Iraq “will not be silent” if it continues to violate its sovereignty by bombing areas in northern Duhok province, part of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

“Neighbouring Turkey has targeted Iraq land unjustly and without pretext, and if [Turkey] has suspected any danger from Iraqi territory then it must co-ordinate with the Iraqi government to end its concerns as Iraqi security forces are capable of defending it,” Mr Al Sadr said.

“If this is repeated, then we will not remain silent, for Iraq is a fully sovereign country,” he said.

Turkish jets and artillery struck suspected PKK targets, while Turkish commandos — supported by helicopters and drones — crossed into the region by land or were flown by helicopter, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said.

“Our heroic commandos and maroon berets — supported by attack helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, armed unmanned aerial vehicles — arrived on the scene by land and by air and captured the determined targets. Many terrorists were neutralised.

“At this point ... all planned targets have been captured."

Turkey has been fighting the PKK for decades along its borders with Syria and Iraq.

The PKK has long used the rugged terrain of northern Iraq as a rear base from which to stage attacks in Turkey, which in turn set up military positions inside Iraqi territory.

Turkey and the PKK — considered a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU — have been fighting since 1984.

Updated: April 19, 2022, 3:19 PM
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