Turkey is prepared to take all steps to determine who perpetrated the attack that killed at least eight civilians in northern Iraq’s Duhok province, Ankara has said and called on Iraqi Kurdish authorities to not be influenced by the propaganda of the PKK terrorist group.
"We invite Iraqi government officials ... to cooperate in bringing the real perpetrators of this tragic incident into light," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Noting that Turkey is against all kinds of attacks targeting civilians, it said: "Turkey carries out its fight against terrorism in accordance with international law, with utmost sensitivity to the protection of civilians, civilian infrastructure, historical and cultural property and the environment.
"It is considered that such attacks which aim at innocent civilians and are assessed to be organized by the terrorist organization, target our country's just and determined stance in the fight against terrorism," it said, adding that Ankara is ready to take all steps to reveal the truth.
The ministry also conveyed its condolences to the relatives of eight people, who according to preliminary reports, lost their lives in Wednesday's streamside attack in the Duhok's Zakho district, as well as to "the friendly and brotherly people and the government of Iraq."
It also wished speedy recovery to the 23 injured, saying that the country received the news with "deep sorrow."
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also on Thursday rejected accusations that the country's military carried out deadly artillery strikes against tourists in northern Iraq.
In an interview with Turkish public broadcaster TRT, the top diplomat said Turkey was willing to cooperate with Iraqi authorities to shed light on the “treacherous attack.”
“According to the information we received from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), we did not conduct any attack against civilians,” Çavuşoğlu said. “Our fight in Iraq has always been against the PKK terrorist organization.”
“We reject the accusations that have been leveled against Turkey before the smoke screen has been lifted,” he said, adding that Turkey believed the attack was aimed at preventing Turkish military operations in the region.
The PKK's propaganda in Iraq comes at a time when Turkey is set to launch a new operation against the terror group's offshoot the YPG in northern Syria, across the Turkish border, said Çavuşoğlu.
“Iraqi authorities must not fall into this trap,” he said.
He added that Turkey will continue its fight against terrorism in line with international law, only targeting terrorist groups.
"The whole world knows that Turkey has never carried out an attack on civilians. We continue our fight against terrorism in accordance with international law," he added.
Denying allegations that protesters entered the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad after the attack, Çavuşoğlu said: "Entering our embassy is out of the question. Iraqi authorities have taken the necessary security measures everywhere. We thank them too. In front of some of our visa offices, a group of rabble-rousers burned our flag. Apart from that, there was a demonstration in front of our old embassy, and then they dispersed."
On Wednesday, at least four artillery shells struck the resort area of Barakh in the Zakho district in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), killing at least eight people, officials said. More than 20 other people were wounded. All of the casualties were Iraqi citizens. A small child was among the victims.
Iraq’s military said eight people were killed in the attack. Health workers at the Bidar Hospital in Dohuk province, which received patients, said nine were killed.
The incident is testing ties between Iraq and Turkey, two countries that share deep economic ties but are divided over security issues related to PKK terrorists operating in Iraq, oil trading with the KRG region and water-sharing.
The Iraqi government, which condemned the attack as “flagrant violation of Iraq's sovereignty,” convened an emergency national security meeting, summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad and ordered a pause in dispatching a new Iraqi ambassador to Ankara.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi accused Turkey of ignoring “Iraq’s continuous demands to refrain from military violations against Iraqi territory and the lives of its people.”
Çavuşoğlu said Turkey had offered to bring the wounded to Turkey for treatment.
Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes into northern Iraq and has sent commandos to support its operations targeting elements of the outlawed PKK.
In April, Turkey launched its latest operation, named Operation Claw-Lock, in parts of northern Iraq - part of a series of cross-border operations started in 2019 to combat the outlawed PKK who are based in the mountainous regions of northern Iraq.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, and has led an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 which has killed tens of thousands of people.
The PKK terrorist group often hides out in northern Iraq, just across Turkey's southern border, where it plots terrorist attacks against Turkey. The Turkish military regularly conducts cross-border operations in northern Iraq. Turkey has long stressed that it will not tolerate terrorist threats posed against its national security and has called on Iraqi officials to take the necessary steps to eliminate the terrorist group. Ankara previously noted that if the expected steps were not taken, it would not shy away from targeting terrorist threats.
Meanwhile, Turkish security sources also rejected the reports "in support of the terrorist organization PKK" which claimed that the civilians lost their lives due to "shelling" by Turkish forces.
The terrorist organization has come to the point of disintegration as a result of operations in northern Iraq, the sources said, adding that it was looking for a way out through "lies and disinformation."
Such reports were broadcast "to distract attention and create a perception," and it was understood that the incident in question was organized by terrorists, the sources said.