Artillery vehicle

Iraqi PM furious as Turkish artillery kills 9 tourists; Ankara accepts no responsibility

BAGHDAD/JEDDAH: Iraqi authorities said at least nine civilians died in a Turkish artillery attack on Wednesday that hit a village in the autonomous region of Kurdistan.

The victims, including two children, were tourists visiting an amusement park in the hilltop village of Parakh in Zakho district, according to official Iraqi media.

The attack drew an unusually strong rebuke from Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi.

“Turkish forces have once again perpetrated a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” Kadhemi said. He condemned the harm done to “the lives and safety of Iraqi citizens”, and said Iraq could retaliate.

“Iraq reserves the right to retaliate against these aggressions and to take all necessary measures to protect our people,” the prime minister said. He dispatched a delegation to the area led by Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein and ordered an investigation into the attack.

General Mohammed Al-Bayati, Secretary to the Prime Minister of Iraq, visits people injured by Turkish shelling at a hospital in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq on July 20, 2022. (Ismael Adnan / AFP)

Turkey on Wednesday denied responsibility and urged Iraqi media to slow down their accusations.

At least 23 other people were injured in the attack and taken to Bidar hospital in Dohuk province, Iraqi state television said.

Children were among the victims, including a one-year-old child, the Kurdish health minister said in a statement, adding that all the victims had died before reaching hospital.

“We go towards the side of the mountain, there are strikes. We go to the waterfall, there are strikes. We are going towards this side, there are strikes,” said Mustafa Aala, 24, who was at the compound with a friend when the attack happened.

“We tore down the fence that surrounded the waterfall. We looked inside, I saw children lying on the ground… It’s a scene I’ve never seen in my life,” Aala added.

Hundreds of Iraqi tourists come from the south into the Kurdish region during the summer months as the weather is cooler. “We come from the province of Babylon,” said survivor Hassan Tahsin. He said he was lucky to survive the deluge of fire when four artillery shells fell on the park and its water features, where visitors relaxed.

“There were indiscriminate strikes on us, there were bodies in the water,” he said. “Our young people are dead, our children are dead, who should we turn to? We only have God.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Ankara was saddened to learn of the victims of the attack and added that Turkey had taken the utmost care to avoid civilian casualties or damage to historical and cultural sites in its counter-terrorism operations against the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militia and others.

“Turkey is ready to do everything in its power to bring the truth to light,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that Turkey’s military operations were in line with international laws.

“We call on the Iraqi government not to make remarks influenced by the rhetoric and propaganda of the heinous terrorist organization, and to engage in cooperation to find the perpetrators of this cruel act,” he said. , referring to the PKK.

Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes in northern Iraq and has sent commandos to support its offensives as part of a long campaign in Iraq and Syria against Kurdish PKK militants and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Ankara considers both to be terrorist groups.

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which in the past was mainly concentrated in southeastern Turkey where the PKK sought to create an ethnic homeland.

The top UN envoy to Iraq condemned Wednesday’s attack in a statement posted on Twitter and called for an investigation.

Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was monitoring the situation after the bombing.

In a regular press briefing, Price reiterated the US position that military action in Iraq must respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and stressed “the importance of ensuring the protection of civilians “.

(With Reuters)