Angry reactions to the deaths of nine Iraqi civilians in an artillery strike blamed on Turkey continued to spread across Iraq yesterday, as the bodies of the victims were flown to Baghdad where they were received by Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the country’s prime minister. Kadhimi declared a national day of mourning, and the country’s Ministerial Council on National Security demanded that Turkey formally apologize and withdraw all of its forces from Iraq.
Iraq said it would be taking its case to the UN Security Council, even as Turkey denied involvement in the artillery attack on a tourist resort in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Dahuk region and called for a joint investigation. Victims included a 1-year-old girl and a newly married man who had traveled there with his bride for their honeymoon.
The Council on National Security told the Foreign Ministry to recall its charge d’affaires in Ankara for consultations and to hold off sending a new ambassador.
Several Iraqi tourism companies said they were launching a boycott on Turkey, while the Iraqi government advised its citizens not to travel there. Protests continued outside the Turkish visa center in Baghdad today following demonstrations in the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala and in the southern city of Nasiriyah the night before.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu kept up the denials today, saying that Iraqi authorities must not fall for “this trap.” Turkey blamed the attack on a terrorist group without naming it. It was likely referring to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The rebel group has been waging a 38-year-long insurgency inside Turkey, but its forces are concentrated in Iraqi Kurdistan, where Turkey is currently targeting them in a wide-scale air and land offensive and has set up a string of military bases.
The massacre has dealt a blow to Ankara’s recent charm offensive aimed at rebuilding ties with Arab nations and Israel and there are no signs that its rebuttal has altered the mood.
In a statement, the Arab League stressed “full rejection of the Turkish aggression on Iraqi sovereignty, which represents a clear violation of international law, and a flagrant violation of the principles of good neighborliness.”
“Ankara has to reconsider its positions and maintain the principle of good neighborliness in its relations with the countries of the region, and refrain from carrying out military operations inside the territories of Arab countries under any pretext,” the pan-Arab body added.
The State Department and various EU governments joined in the flood of condemnations over the deaths of the tourists, which were mostly women and children holidaying in Barakh, a riverside hill resort that is within range of Turkish bases scattered across the region.
Senior Iraqi officials speaking on background to Al-Monitor said initial investigations revealed there was no doubt that the attack had originated from a Turkish base. They gave no further details.