Iraq to summon Turkish ambassador after drone attack kills three in Sulaymaniyah

The air strike hit a small military airport of Arbid

A group of PKK fighters in the mountains of northern Iraq. The group took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. Reuters
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Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid will summon Turkey's ambassador and hand him a formal letter of protest after a Turkish drone attack in northern Iraq killed three counter-terrorism service members on Monday and wounded three others.

In a statement, Mr Rashid described the attack as an "aggression targeting innocent civilians and military and security headquarters".

"Day after day, systematic military attacks on Iraqi territory, specifically in the Kurdish region, are escalating without military or security justification," he said.

The drone crossed the border from Turkey late in the afternoon and hit a small military airport of Arbid in the province of Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rasool said early on Tuesday.

"Launching consecutive military attacks targeting cities and civilians, in addition to the military personnel, is a violation of international law and contradicts the principles of good neighbourly relations," Mr Rashid added.

The military condemned the attack as a “violation of the sovereignty of Iraq, its security and the safety of its lands”.

“It represents infringement and a threat to peace and security in the region and the world, a violation to the international law and a breach to the principles and purposes of the UN Charter,” it added.

“Attacks repeatedly violating Iraqi sovereignty must stop,” it said. “Security concerns must be addressed through dialogue and diplomacy – not strikes.”

Arbid is a small airport used for helicopters located 50km to the east of the city of Sulaymaniyah, one of three provinces that make up the Kurdish region.

A security official told Reuters that initial information suggested the attack was against a suspected Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) target, a dissident group.

Training mission

Turkey regularly carries out air strikes on PKK militants in northern Iraq and has dozens of outposts in Iraqi territory. The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.

Bafel Talabani, President of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the dominant Kurdish parties in northern Iraq, confirmed Monday's drone strike. He said those killed and wounded were members of the Iraqi Kurdish counter-terrorism force.

"We strongly condemn the terrorist attack on the Agricultural Airport of Arbid in Sulaymaniyah, which resulted in the martyrdom and injury of six heroic Peshmerga," he said.

Iraqi Kurdistan’s internal security forces, Asayish, said the counter-terrorism force was attacked and three members were killed during a training mission inside the airport.

Iraqi Kurdistan's Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani condemned the drone attack and demanded the intervention of the federal government authorities to "prevent these attacks from recurring".

"Iraq reserves the right to put an end to these violations," Mr Rasool said.

Two Iraqi army intelligence officers said Baghdad will send a joint security team to Sulaimaniya to investigate the strike.

Updated: September 19, 2023, 3:05 PM