In a Foreign Ministry statement on Tuesday, Turkey strongly implied that it was responsible for Monday’s drone attack on Arbat Airport in Sulaymaniyah (Silêmanî), Iraqi Kurdistan, which targeted a training facility of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)’s Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG).
“It is understood that the members of the PUK’s ‘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 Turkish statement went on to say, “This latest incident has also confirmed once again the accuracy of the measures we have taken regarding Sulaymaniyah, the people of which are almost taken hostage by the terrorist organization”.
The attack has drawn international attention as it is a probable violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and international law. Major General Yahya Rasoul, an Iraqi army spokesman, condemned the incident, stating, “It poses a significant breach and threat to both regional and global peace and security, thereby infringing upon the tenets of international law and the fundamental principles and objectives outlined in the United Nations Charter.”
At least three CTG peshmergas were confirmed dead, but unofficial accounts suggest that the death toll could be higher, and could indeed include members of an as yet unidentified group, possibly affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey equates with the PKK and regards as a terrorist organisation. It is likely that the training of the group in question was conducted under the auspices of the United States, due to the US-SDF partnership against ISIS.
Major General Rasoul also stated that the drone responsible for the attack was launched from Turkey. This is not the first time Turkey has been involved in military operations in Iraqi Kurdistan. Over the past 25 years, Turkey has established numerous military installations in the region, primarily targeting members of the PKK. In April 2023, Turkey conducted an airstrike near Sulaymaniyah International Airport at a time when both US military personnel and Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the SDF, were present.