The Iraqi army says two senior military officers have been killed in a “blatant Turkish drone attack” in the country’s north, where Ankara has for weeks been raiding positions of fighters it considers terrorists, Al Jazeera reported.
The drone targeted a vehicle belonging to the Iraqi border guards in the Bradost area, north of Erbil, the military said in a statement on Tuesday. The strike caused the deaths of the two border guard battalion commanders and the vehicle’s driver.
The deaths announced by the military marked the first time members of the regular Iraqi forces have been killed since Turkey launched a cross-border ground and air operation in mid-June against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the mountainous terrain of northern Iraq.
Iraq has already summoned the Turkish envoy in Baghdad twice in protest at Ankara’s operations on its soil.
Turkey has defended its operations in northern Iraq, saying neither the central government in Baghdad nor the regional Iraqi Kurdish administration has acted to remove PKK fighters who allegedly use Iraq’s territory to stage attacks on Turkey.
İhsan Chalabi, the mayor of Sidakan in the north of Erbil province, told the AFP news agency that the drone had targeted “Iraqi border guard commanders while they were in meetings with PKK fighters.”
Witnesses had reported clashes earlier in the day between PKK and Iraqi forces, and local sources told AFP the drone strike targeted an emergency meeting called to try to calm the tensions.
The PKK, waging a decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s Southeast, is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, the European Union and the United States.