ARBIL: Two civilians were killed on Sunday in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region by a Turkish army bombardment as forces battled the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels, local officials said.

Turkey regularly targets northwest Iraq in operations against the PKK, which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation.

The Kurdish separatists have waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey, and maintain bases in the rugged mountains across the border in Iraq. The latest violence comes six days before a regional summit in Baghdad.

The Iraqi civilians were killed in Iraq’s Zakho district, an area bordering Turkey, said local mayor Farhad Mahmoud.

“They had gone to an area where it is advised not to go,” Mahmoud said, adding that they were not from the area, but had been visiting from the city of Mosul. “They were caught in a Turkish bombing and died.” PKK fighters said clashes were ongoing on Sunday.

Turkey has installed around a dozen military bases over the past 25 years in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, and it launched a new cross-border offensive in April against the PKK, consisting of both aerial and ground attacks. Residents of dozens of villages in the area have fled the conflict.

On Tuesday, eight people died in a Turkish airstrike in northern Iraq’s Sinjar region.

Repeated Turkish raids have stoked tensions with Baghdad, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that his country will “deal with” the PKK presence if Iraq is unable to do so.

On Wednesday, Iraq’s national security council condemned “unilateral military actions” and rejected “the use of Iraqi land for settling scores”, but did not specifically mention of Turkey.

Ankara is one of Baghdad’s key trading partners, and Erdogan has been invited to next week’s regional summit in Baghdad.

But it is not known if Erdogan will attend, or if Turkish operations in Iraq will be discussed.

Killer of official sentenced to hang

A man who murdered a senior Iraqi official in broad daylight this month was sentenced to death amid revulsion over the government’s failure to halt a wave of assassinations.

“After all proceedings concluded and the convict confessed, he was brought before the Karbala criminal court which examined the crime and sentenced him to death by hanging,” the Supreme Court of Iraq said in a statement.

Abir Salim, municipal director in the shrine city of Karbala, was shot dead as he worked on August 10.

He was on foot supervising a survey of unauthorised construction when Hussein Abd al-Amir, wearing a traditional white robe, pulled out a gun and shot him at close range. Abd al-Amir was arrested at the scene.

Under Iraq’s criminal justice system, his lawyer now has 30 days in which to lodge an appeal.

President Barham Saleh also has to sign an execution order for the death penalty to be carried out.

Salim’s murder sparked widespread public anger over apparent impunity for politically linked crimes, after more than 70 activists had been targeted for assassination since October 2019.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi went to Karbala after the killing and pledged: “Murderers and criminals will not escape punishment.” There have been no claims of responsibility for the wave of killings.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2021

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