A day of national mourning was decreed Thursday in Iraq while public opinion is not taking off the day after artillery fire attributed to Turkey and having killed nine civilians in the north of the country. Turkey, which has had dozens of military bases for 25 years in Iraqi Kurdistan, regularly launches military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Mourning and angry, Iraq buries Thursday, July 21 the victims of artillery fire attributed to Turkey having killed the day before nine civilians in recreational gardens in Kurdistan, a tragedy which has aggravated tensions between the two neighboring countries.
On the tarmac of Erbil airport, capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, a military plane was dispatched to transport the bodies to Baghdad, according to an AFP photographer.
Brought in by ambulance, nine coffins were covered with the flag of Iraq and wreaths of flowers. The smallest, child-sized, was boarded by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein and Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani, before the plane flew to the capital .
Thursday has been declared a day of national mourning and Iraqi public opinion is furious in the aftermath of the tragedy that left nine dead and 23 injured.
Ankara denies any responsibility
Most of the victims are Iraqi tourists from the south or center of the country, used to fleeing the scorching summer heat to find some coolness in the mountainous northern region, on the border with Turkey.
Iraq has accused Turkish forces of carrying out the artillery strikes that fell on recreational gardens in Zakho district on Wednesday.
Ankara has denied any responsibility, pointing the finger at the Turkish Kurdish insurgents of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), classified as a “terrorist” group by Turkey and its Western allies.
For its part, German diplomacy condemned this attack on civilians, calling for “urgently shedding light on the circumstances and responsibilities” of these artillery fire.
Turkey, which has had dozens of military bases for 25 years in Iraqi Kurdistan, regularly launches military operations in northern Iraq against the PKK, which has training camps and rear bases there.
These operations on Iraqi soil complicate relations between the Iraqi central government and Ankara, one of Iraq’s leading trading partners.
Demonstrations and burning Turkish flags
Thursday morning, near a center for issuing Turkish visas in Baghdad, placed under high police protection, a few dozen demonstrators demanded the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador, according to an AFP photographer.
Loudspeakers played patriotic songs. Some demonstrators held in their hands a sheet on which was written: “I am Iraqi, I demand the expulsion from Iraq of the Turkish ambassador.”
“To Turkey and to the embassy, we tell them enough is enough”, asserts Ali Yassine.
“It’s no use pacifism, we want to burn the embassy, the Turkish ambassador must be expelled. Our government is doing nothing,” castigates the 53-year-old man.
On Wednesday evening and Thursday, similar rallies took place across the country in front of Turkish visa issuing centers, in Kirkuk north of Baghdad, or in Kerbala or Najaf, large Shiite cities south of the capital.
Turkish flags were burned and trampled on, while portraits printed by protesters called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “terrorist”.
In the past, the Turkish ambassador stationed in Baghdad was regularly summoned to the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But Iraqi remonstrances are generally short-lived.
This time Baghdad has hardened its tone by demanding the withdrawal of the Turkish armed forces from all of Iraqi territory. Iraq also announced “the recall of the Iraqi charge d’affaires to Ankara for consultations and the stopping of the procedures for sending a new ambassador to Turkey”, according to an official press release.
On its Twitter account, the Turkish Embassy expressed its condolences on Thursday “for the Iraqi brothers killed by the PKK terrorist organization”.
The day before, the Turkish Foreign Ministry had estimated that “these types of attacks” were perpetrated by “terrorist organizations”, calling on Iraq not to “make statements under the influence of terrorist propaganda”.
Source: France 24