Qubad Talabani, the deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, flatly denied allegations on Wednesday that Syrian Kurdish forces were present alongside the Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) at the Arbat airport in Sulaymaniyah (Silêmanî) during Monday’s deadly attack by a drone taking off from Turkey.
“The martyrs and wounded were all heroic Kurdistan Peshmergas and members of the anti-terror forces. There was no other force at the airport except the anti-terror forces,” said Talabani.
Talabani’s remarks are in response to the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement on Tuesday. “It is understood that the members of the ‘Anti-Terrorist Group’ were conducting a training exercise together with PKK/YPG [Kurdistan Workers’ Party / People’s Protection Units] terrorists at the time of the explosion,” the statement read, alluding to unconfirmed reports that members of another Kurdish force may also have been killed in the attack.
The statement came during his meeting on the attack with Head of European Union Liaison Office Torkild Byg in Erbil (Hewlêr). In the meeting, the EU representative also strongly condemned the offensive on Arbat airport which killed three peshmergas and expressed hope that such an incident would not happen again.
“This incident is a dangerous development and targeted an official Iraqi Kurdish force—the Kurdistan Anti-Terror Force—which has been a main ally of the Global Coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the fight against terrorism for two decades,” Byg said.
Talabani emphasised the importance of the Iraqi government, its allies, and the European Union taking concrete measures to safeguard Iraqi sovereignty and prevent a recurrence of such transgressions. Additionally, he called for a restraint on military operations within the Kurdistan Region and Iraq’s borders.
The Arbat airport, originally used for agricultural purposes, has recently become a hub for Sulaymaniyah counter-terrorism units, and it is believed that relations with Syrian Kurds were being promoted through this facility. The Turkish government had justified its previous attacks based on these alleged connections.