06/19/2020, 15.27
IRAQ - TURKEY
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Turkish raids against the PKK in Kurdistan hits Christian village killing shepherd

The village of Qashafar, about 27 km from Dohuk, also involved. Panic among the local population. Several families who fled Mosul and the Nineveh plain with the rise of Isis live in the area. Baghdad summons the Turkish ambassador and demands an easing in tension. Turkey’s response: "We will fight the PKK wherever it is", even on Iraqi territory.

Erbil (AsiaNews) - The Turkish air force has bombed several areas of Iraqi Kurdistan, including the Christian village of Qashafar, about 27 km from Dohuk, causing panic among the local population. The attack took place around 5.30 yesterday afternoon and, according to local sources, Apache air vehicles were allegedly engaged in the operation.

The areas is home to hundreds of Christian families who fled Mosul and the Nineveh plain in the summer of 2014, following the advance of the militias of the Islamic State (IS, ex Isis). Years later they are still in the area, waiting for their houses to be rebuilt and a safe return to their lands guaranteed.

The Turkish bombs that fell yesterday would have caused at least one victim: A Kurdish shepherd, killed by the explosion of a missile that fell in the early hours of the morning in the Bradost district.

In response, the Iraqi government summoned the Turkish ambassador Fatih Yildiz to Baghdad, but the escalation has continued unabated: from air raids that have been underway since last weekend, tatctics have now passed to ground operations launched on June 17, with some special forces entering Iraqi territory in the context of the operation "Tiger's Claws". The target of the assault is some (presumed) Kurdish PKK fighters’ refugees in some villages in the northern province of Duhok, near the border between Iraq, Turkey and Syria.

The Turkish leadership seems willing to press on and continue with the attacks, as reflected in the threatening and open challenge contained in the response from Ambassador Yildiz to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry: if you are not able to take measures against the rebels Ankara will continue to "fight the PKK wherever it is", even in Iraqi territory.

Concerned by the escalation on the northern border, Baghdad asked Ankara and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to "end the provocative acts" and to "withdraw the soldiers who infiltrated Iraqi territory". The Turkish offensive was allegedly triggered by attacks by Kurdish militants against police stations and military bases across the border.

Erdogan's domestic difficulties due to the economic crisis and the coronavirus emergency, compound this escalation by pushing the Turkish president to identify at an external threat to strengthen internal stability.

The Turkish air raids against PKK bases in Iraq are not new and similar episodes were also recorded in 2007 and 2018 although the operation launched this week is of a greater magnitude than the previous ones.

So far there have been no official responses - on a diplomatic or military level - from Baghdad and Erbil, although the irritation among the high political and institutional spheres of Iraq appears evident.

Instead, a condemnation of the bombings "in violation of international law" came from the Arab League, which however will have few – if any - practical consequences.

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