ANKAWA, Iraq / BAGHDAD / ANKARA — On Tuesday, SyriacPress reported that Turkish air strikes targeted a unit of Iraqi Border Guards near Sidakan in the mountains northeast of Erbil which killed at least one high-ranking officer, Brigadier General Zuber Hali, Commander of the Third Regiment of the Iraqi Border Guard. A second officer, Commander of Second Brigade of the Iraqi Border Guard Mohammad Rashid, was also confirmed killed in the air strike.
Regional news outlet Rudaw, among several others, reported that the Turkish strike was targeting a meeting between border officials and members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist group. However, a local mayor said that the officers were in the area to set up ne border posts.
On Wednesday, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry confirmed that two officers and one soldier were killed in the Turkish bombing, which the Ministry vehemently condemned.
The Ministry announced the cancellation of the visit of the Turkish Defense Minister to Baghdad, scheduled for next Thursday, in protest Turkey’s bombing of areas in northern Iraq.
In a statement, the Ministry said that, “Iraq categorically rejects and strongly condemns the blatant attack carried out by Turkey in the Sedkan area of Erbil Province in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq with drones that caused the death of two officers and a soldier of the Iraqi Armed Forces.”
Hassan Karim al-Kaabi, First Deputy of Speaker Iraq’s House of Representatives said the Turkish attacks on Iraq’s sovereignty would damage the historic relations between the two countries and called on the U.N. Security Council to intervene to stop the repeated violations.
The President of Iraq, Barham Salih, also condemned the Turkish strikes. In a statement released by the Official Spokesperson for the Presidency of Iraq, Salih called for an end to Turkey’s military operations in the region and sought dialog to resolve existing tensions.
“We condemn the flagrant attack which was carried out by a Turkish drone that targeted the Sidakan area in the Kurdistan Region.
The repeated Turkish military breaches of Iraqi territories are a serious violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and a clear violation of the international laws and covenants.
While denouncing these acts of aggressions which have resulted in the martyrdom of a number of innocent citizens in addition to border guard battalion officers, we call for the immediately cessation of such aggressions as well as sitting down together and opening dialogue to resolve the border problems between the two neighboring countries by adopting the peaceful ways and means so as to preserve the security and stability of the Region.”
Despite earning condemnation from Iraqi officials and increasing regional tensions, Turkey signaled it is unlikely to end its cross-border operations.
Without confirming or denying it was behind the air strikes that killed the Iraq military officers, the Turkish Foreign Ministry rebuffed Baghdad’s criticism and released a statement saying that Iraq was responsible for taking measures to secure its side of the border.
“Our country is ready for cooperation with Iraq on this issue,” the Foreign Ministry said. “But if the PKK presence in Iraq continues to be ignored, then we are determined to take any step anywhere for our border security.”
Since mid-June, Turkey has engaged in a cross-border military operation ostensibly targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party which has been in armed conflict with the Turkish state since the 1980s. However, Turkish drone and air strikes have repeatedly targeted areas without a PKK presence, according to locals.
Human Rights Watch criticized Turkey for failing to take adequate measures to minimize civilian casualties after an air strike on 25 June injured six civilians and damaged a popular tourist town in Sulaymaniyah Province.
Thousands of civilians have been displaced across norther Iraq by the ongoing Turkish operations.