ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish warplanes shelled the Qandil Mountains inside the Kurdistan Region on Wednesday, the eve of the Kurdish New Year known as Newroz, close to where a public gathering is due to take place on the following day.
"Turkish planes circled the skies of Qandil’s base and bombarded some regions," Mohammed Hassan, a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) official, told Kurdistan 24.
"There was little damage," he said but added that he was sure that Ankara initiated the attacks at that time and location to deter locals from holding Newroz celebrations.
The PKK, headquartered in the Qandil Mountains is fighting a decades-long insurgency with Ankara over Kurdish rights and self-rule. Turkey, the United States, and the European Union all designate it as a "terrorist" group.
Turkey has routinely shelled and attacked areas well past its border with the Kurdistan Region, claiming nearby detection of PKK positions. Many civilians have been killed in such attacks, which have led to multiple rounds of demonstrations, with the latest taking place in Duhok’s town of Sheladize near a Turkish army outpost.
On Jan. 26, hundreds of people in Sheladize protested Turkey’s ongoing bombardment of their villages after at least four civilians were killed. Demonstrators took to the streets, holding up signs and shouting slogans calling on the Turkish military and the PKK to "take their fight elsewhere."
The protest quickly turned violent with some people setting fire to Turkish military vehicles. Two protesters were killed, and 16 more were wounded, according to the health directorate in Sheladize. At least some of the casualties were believed to be the result of Turkish forces allegedly opening fire on the crowds to prevent protesters from approaching the base.
The Iraqi foreign minister condemned the Turkish actions, and the KRG released a statement which extended condolences to the families of the victims, but also blamed an unnamed “disruptive hand” for the events.
On Tuesday, clashes erupted between the Iraqi army and a Yezidi (Ezidi) militia group affiliated to the PKK in Sinjar (Shingal), days after an initial confrontation that resulted in casualties on both sides.
This is the latest development in the Yezidi (Ezidi)-majority area of Sinjar, which Turkey has previously bombarded on multiple occasions reportedly targeting the PKK positions—operations that may be violating Iraq’s sovereignty as Baghdad has stated that it played no role in coordinating with Ankara on the strikes.
Editing by John J. Catherine