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Death of PKK commander in northern Iraq airstrike blamed on Turkey

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A drone strike killed an outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) commander on Tuesday in northern Iraq, Kurdish authorities said, blaming the strike on Turkey.

Turkey has carried out ground and air operations in northern Iraq against positions of the PKK, which has waged a decades-long war against the Turkish state.

“A Turkish drone targeted a vehicle belonging to PKK fighters, killing a senior military commander and seriously wounding two other fighters” in the mountainous Sinjar region, the counterterrorism services of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region said in a statement.

Turkey’s armed forces rarely comment on their operations in Iraq.

On March 8 three people, including a PKK commander, were killed in drone attacks that were also blamed on Turkey.

For decades, Turkey has operated several dozen military bases in northern Iraq in its war against the PKK, which Ankara and its Western allies consider a “terrorist” group.

Both Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been accused of tolerating Turkey’s military activities to preserve their close economic ties.

A high-ranking Turkish delegation led by Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan visited Baghdad in mid-March, where they discussed key security issues ahead of an expected visit by Turkey’s president.

A joint statement from Baghdad and Ankara following the meeting said the presence of PKK militants in northern Iraq “represents a violation of the Iraqi constitution.”

In a televised interview later in March, Iraqi Defense Minister Thabet al-Abbasi ruled out “joint military operations” between Baghdad and Ankara.

He said they would establish a “coordination intelligence center at the appropriate time and place.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to visit Iraq after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in the second week of April.

© Agence France-Presse

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