Turkish warplanes hit Nowruz festival in Iraq
Turkish air-strikes killed four civilians camping in a rural area of northern Iraq's Qandil Mountains as part of a gathering celebrating the traditional Kurdish spring festival, Nowruz. The March 22 air raid on the Choman district of Iraq's Kurdistan Region was ostensibly aimed at positions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). But local residents told Kurdistan 24 the young men killed in the strikes, at a site known as Dali Baliani, were all civilians.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) issued a statement in response to the Turkish attack. "We deliver our condolences to the families of the martyrs. We also express our concern over targeting villages in Kurdistan [by Turkish air-strikes],” KRG spokesperson Safin Dizayi said. However, Dizayi put part of the blame on the PKK for establishing positions in the vicinity of civilian-populated villages. (BasNews)
Ankara openly threatened this week that its military may mount an offensive against northern Iraq's Sinjar region if the KRG and Baghdad government don't act against the PKK stronghold there. (Asharq Al-Awsat) This is an implicit reference to the Yazidi minority of the Sinjar area, who have formed a militia that is aligned with the PKK.
The Dali Baliani air raid came one day after Baghdad's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari expressed "absolute rejection" of any violation by Turkish forces of Iraq's borders. (Asharq Al-Awsat) In contrast, the KRG, viewing the PKK as rivals, has rarely protested the increasing Turkish air-strikes on its territory. Last year, Turkish warplanes struck the Sinjar area.