The Washington Post

Turkish strike kills at least 8 Iraqis at resort

- BY LOUISA LOVELUCK AND MUSTAFA SALIM Kareem Fahim in Istanbul contribute­d to this report.

BAGHDAD — At least eight Iraqis were killed Wednesday in the country’s northern Kurdistan region after Turkish artillery strikes hit a crowded tourist resort, officials said.

Videos from the scene of the attack showed a summertime idyll destroyed. Shortly before the strike, families had been gathered by a pool, taking a dip or resting in the dappled shade.

When the shelling began, screams filled the air beneath a canopy of vines. Parents grabbed their children and ran.

Turkey has been conducting military operations against militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in Iraq’s northern mountains for years. The group has fought a decades-long war for autonomy for Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish minority — but civilian casualties on this scale are believed to be rare.

Wednesday’s strike on the Barakh resort area of Zakhu came as thousands of Iraqis took refuge from the heat in Kurdistan’s mountains. Many of the dead and wounded were from the country’s predominan­tly Arab federal region, where temperatur­es reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit this week.

In an interview broadcast by the Kurdish TV network Rudaw, an eyewitness visiting from the capital, Baghdad, said smoke had been visible farther up the mountain from the window of his tourist bus as he arrived in Barakh.

“We asked our tour guide, but they said it was normal,” he said. About 15 minutes later, four or five strikes landed amid the gathered families, he said. A young boy’s hand was severed. An old man lost two daughters. In addition to the eight dead, at least 28 people were wounded.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organizati­on by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Turkey, where millions of Kurds live in the southeaste­rn part of the country bordering Iraq and Syria, has spent decades fighting a low-level war with the PKK, leaving tens of thousands dead.

The militants have operated in Iraq’s Kurdistan region for decades, and have historical­ly been viewed as a threat by the area’s ruling Kurdish parties. But in practice, neither has the capacity to oust them. Turkey has instead been allowed to operate dozens of military bases inside Iraq from which to target the group.

In a statement Wednesday, the Kurdistan region’s Council of Ministers condemned the strike and urged Iraq’s federal government, based in Baghdad, and the internatio­nal community to do more to prevent attacks.

For its part, the United Nations condemned the attack and urged an investigat­ion, but it did not mention Turkey in its statement. The U.S. State Department said it was monitoring the situation.

As night fell, dozens of protesters were gathered in protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad. Condemnati­ons were scrawled in spray paint across Turkish bureaucrat­ic offices in several of Iraq’s southern cities.

In a statement hours later, Turkey condemned the strikes and suggested that only a “terrorist organizati­on” could be responsibl­e. It called for an investigat­ion.

“We invite Iraqi government officials not to make statements under the influence of the rhetoric and propaganda of the treacherou­s terrorist organizati­on and to cooperate in bringing the real perpetrato­rs of this tragic incident into light,” it added.

Human rights groups have urged Turkey to do more to protect civilians during its attacks on Kurdish militants. Since the start of the year, civilian casualty monitoring group Airwars has recorded scores of potential civilian casualties from alleged Turkish strikes in Iraq.

Ankara has pressed Baghdad to uproot the PKK from the Kurdistan region. Iraq, in turn, has described Turkish attacks as being in breach of its sovereignt­y.

“This brutal attack underscore­s the fact that Turkey ignored Iraq’s continuous demands to refrain from military violations against Iraqi territory and the lives of its people,” Prime Minister Mustafa al-kadhimi said Wednesday in a statement.

Dulsher Abdulsatta­r, an official from the Zakhu region, said the area had been shelled seven times in three months, but never near any gatherings of civilians.

“People are terrified; they came for tourism, but they were bombed instead,” he said, reached by phone in a hospital as doctors treated the casualties. “Are there PKK in the mountains? Of course. But here they bombed a tourist area.”

 ?? ISMAEL ADNAN/AGENCE France-presse/getty IMAGES ?? A medic transports the body of a victim killed by Turkish artillery strikes Wednesday in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.
ISMAEL ADNAN/AGENCE France-presse/getty IMAGES A medic transports the body of a victim killed by Turkish artillery strikes Wednesday in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States