Turkish diplomat killed in Iraq
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Turkish diplomats dining at a restaurant were reportedly targeted on Wednesday at a restaurant in the northern city of Erbil, which is also the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The attack will raise tensions and shock Turkey.
At around 2:30 in the afternoon personnel from the Turkish consulate in Erbil were in a restaurant on Airport Road when a shooting incident took place, Rudaw local media reports. Iran’s Press TV said three people were killed and said the three were Turkish. However local sources in Erbil have said that the situation is on lock down and people were awaiting details on the total killed or wounded.
Baxtiyar Goran, a local journalist, tweeted that the deputy consul of the Turkish consulate was among the three or four people killed in the shooting. Anadolu in Turkey says that at least one consular employee was “martyred” in the attack.
The shooting comes as Turkey is increasingly involved in operations in northern Iraq. It is not yet clear if it is linked to that operation, but any attack on Turkish diplomats will raise tensions and be met with strong Turkish condemnation.
Turkey launched Operation Claw II on July 13 against Kurdistan Worker Party militants in northern Iraq. This is the second wave of Turkish operations in the mountains of northern Iraq in which Turkey says it is trying to destroy PKK bases and infrastructure. Since a ceasefire ended in 2015 Turkey and the PKK have been engaged in a deepening conflict. It has led Turkey not only to impose curfews and fight the PKK in cities in eastern Turkey, but also led Ankara to invade Afrin in northwest Syria and to threaten to invade northeast Syria. Turkey’s current government is aiming to eradicate the PKK and it has launched airstrikes in Sinjar and Makhmur in northern Iraq aimed at PKK members, as well as setting up and bolstering bases in northern Iraq.
In the past Turkish diplomats have been targeted by Armenian militants in the 1970s to 1990s. One of the last high profile assassinations was Haluk Sopahioglu in Athens in 1994. ISIS kidnapped Turkish diplomats in Mosul in 2014.