ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region’s counterterrorism forces on Thursday night identified the lead suspect in their investigation into the deadly shooting a day earlier in Erbil that killed a Turkish diplomat and two others.
Early on Wednesday afternoon, a group of employees and diplomats from the Turkish consulate in Erbil were dining at an upscale restaurant when a gunman suddenly opened fire on them. Two were killed instantly, including a high-level Turkish consular official, and another was critically injured and later died while receiving medical care at a nearby hospital.
“The name of the person whose photo has been released is Mazloum Dagh. He was born in 1992 and is from the city of Diyarbakir in Turkey,” read a statement by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD). “The aforementioned is wanted by the security agencies of the Kurdistan Region.”
The statement also called on citizens to report any information they might have regarding the suspect to the authorities.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but many observers speculate the involvement of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), 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 CTD's claim that Dagh originates from Diyarbakir is likely to strengthen assumptions that the PKK was responsible for the attack since the city, known in Kurdish as Amed, is a well-known center of Kurdish cultural and political activity in Turkey.
The incident also comes amid a recent uptick in deadly clashes between Turkish forces and PKK fighters in the Kurdistan Region. In recent days and weeks, Ankara’s fighter jets flying across its southern border into the autonomous federal region of Iraq have killed multiple high-ranking PKK members, including one announced by the group on Wednesday.
A PKK official, however, denied its fighters had anything to do with Wednesday's shooting in Erbil, saying, “We have no information regarding the incident and only heard about it through the media.”
Earlier on Thursday, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) condemned the deadly incident as a “premeditated terrorist attack,” in wording that is no doubt being closely watched by Kurds in Turkey.
The CTD named Dagh as its prime suspect just hours after Turkish jets bombed areas inside the Kurdistan Region, severely wounding three civilians and causing extensive damage to local infrastructure.
Jamal Aradne, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Chamanki sub-district, told Kurdistan 24 that the attack targeted a vehicle belonging to the PKK that had infiltrated the village of Spendari and stopped in front of a local shop.
As a result, he said, the bombardment destroyed the militants' car but also injured three local bystanders.
Editing by John J. Catherine