Turkish airstrike in Kurdistan Region kills 2 Iraqi border guard commanders
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Turkish airstrike killed two Iraqi border guard officers and seriously wounded at least one other in Erbil province's Bradost area, just the latest casualties resulting from Ankara's targeting of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
“Today, at 2:45 pm, a Turkish fighter jet bombed a vehicle belonging to Iraqi Government's Border Patrol Forces while patrolling border areas in Bradost region, tragically killing two commanders: Commander of Border Patrol's Second Brigade Brigadier General Mohammed Rashid Sleman, and Commander of Border Patrol's Third Regiment of the Second Brigade Colonel Zuber Tajaadin,” the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Interior said in a statement.
“We reiterate our position that Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkey should take their fight and rivalry outside the territory of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. They should no longer make our people pay the price for this rivalry.”
The statement added that another officer was also injured in the attack, and sought to “reassure the public that Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is making every effort to distance this rivalry from Kurdistan Region's soil.”
Local sources told Kurdistan 24 that the border officials' vehicle was struck after they met with PKK members to inform them that it was necessary for them to leave the area because of the danger their presence posed to the local civilian population.
Soran Mayor Kirmanj Ezat told Kurdistan 24, “The border guard officers were aiming to increase security checkpoints to avoid confrontations between Turkey and the PKK in populated territories which often leads to civilian casualties. It was for that purpose that they met with the PKK and, unfortunately, their vehicle was targeted by a Turkish airstrike.”
A spokesperson for Iraqi President Barham Salih, in another statement, called the attack an act of “flagrant aggression” by Turkey and a “serious violation” of Iraq's national sovereignty.
The PKK is engaged in a decades-long insurgency against Turkey over Kurdish rights and self-rule that has resulted in the death of over 40,000 people on both sides. The group is headquartered in the Kurdistan Region's Zagros Mountains, along the Turkish and Iranian borders.
Turkey has intensified its bombardment of various areas over its southern border into the Kurdistan Region since mid-June, killing dozens of civilians unaffiliated to the PKK and has caused the displacement of thousands, extensive damage to residences, farms, and killed locals’ livestock.
Last month, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed its concerns about Turkish airstrikes that resulted in civilian causalities in Sulaimani province’s Kuna Masi resort.
In mid-July, Baghdad summoned the Turkish ambassador twice to deliver two strongly worded protest notes after Turkish cross-border attacks caused civilian casualties.
Editing by John J. Catherine
CORRECTION: A previous version of this report incorrectly reported that the source of the statement (after the lead) was from Iraq’s interior ministry. The correct source is the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Interior.