Iraq calls on Turkey to apologize for attack on Sulaymaniyah airport


Erbil (Reuters) – Iraq called on Turkey on Saturday to apologize for what it said was an attack on Sulaymaniyah airport in Iraq’s north, saying the Turkish government must cease hostilities on Iraqi soil.

The Iraqi presidency said in a statement that Turkey has no legal justification to “continue its approach of intimidating civilians under the pretext that forces hostile to it are present on Iraqi soil… in this regard we call on the Turkish government to take responsibility and present an official apology.”

Lawk Ghafuri, head of foreign media affairs for the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), wrote in a Twitter post that a drone attack hit the vicinity of Sulaymaniyah airport on Friday but caused no damage or delays or suspension of flights.

A Turkish defence ministry official told Reuters that no Turkish Armed Forces operation took place in that region on Friday.

An informed source close to the leadership of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the party that controls the Sulaimaniya area, and two Kurdish security officials said Mazloum Abdi, chief of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and three U.S. military personnel were near the airport at the time of the alleged attack.

The three sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media, said no one was injured or killed in the incident.

A U.S. official confirmed there was a strike on a convoy in the area and U.S. military personnel were in it, but there were no casualties.

While Turkey views the Kurdish-led forces in Syria as terrorists and a national security threat, the United States views the SDF as an ally that has helped drive Islamic State from vast areas of Syria.

Turkey has conducted several large-scale military operations including air strikes over the decades in northern Iraq and northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, Islamic State and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Claims of an attack came days after Turkey closed its airspace to aircraft travelling to and from Sulaymaniyah due to what it said was intensified activity there by PKK militants.

The outlawed PKK, which has led an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

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