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Turkey says its consulate in Iraq's Mosul attacked by mortar

Incident comes a week after eight people died in an attack on a resort in Iraq's northern Dohuk province, which Iraqi officials blamed on Turkey
A shrapnel-riddled car outside the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, 27 July 2022 (AFP)

Turkey's consulate general in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was attacked early on Wednesday as tensions grow between Baghdad and Ankara over a disputed attack last week that killed nine tourists in northern Iraq.

Mortar rounds had fallen close to the building, one official said, but there were no reported casualties, the Turkish foreign ministry said.

"We condemn this attack… in the strongest terms and expect those responsible to be brought to justice as soon as possible," the ministry said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The ministry said it was a "grave and noteworthy development" that the attack coincided with a UN Security Council meeting held at the request of Iraqi authorities to discuss the attack in northern Iraq last week "at a time when our country was unfairly accused and targeted".

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Turkey has rejected claims by Iraqi officials and state media that it carried out the attack on a mountain resort in Iraq's northern Duhok province.

Unusually in such cases, no photographic evidence of shells or fragments, or the blast scene, has been made public. Baghdad says it is in possession of the evidence, and a senior Iraqi official told Middle East Eye that 155mm artillery shells had been collected. That, he said, indicated a Turkish Panter howitzer was used.

"Certainly, the attack was launched from Turkish territory,” the official said. “The attack was caused by 155mm artillery shells. The resort is 10km from the Turkish border and the attack was launched by a Turkish artillery force stationed inside Turkish territory.

“No armed faction operating inside Iraq has this kind of cannon, but it is an essential part of the armament of the Turkish army,” he added.

The Panter, which was first developed in the 1990s, has a range of 40km. The Iraqi official noted that a new model was being developed, and speculated that a misfire may have occurred during a field test.

The Turkish defence ministry ruled out a Panter test fire mishap, with a Turkish source with knowledge of military matters adding that the new howitzer being developed isn’t yet available to troops. He also said that training is conducted around Konya, a city in central Turkey, 1,000km away from Zakho.

'Infighting by Turkey and PKK'

Turkey regularly carries out air strikes in northern Iraq and has sent commandos to support its offensives against militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based there.

The PKK launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict. It is regarded as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Military sources in Turkey said that artillery is not fired at PKK targets in the Zakho area from Turkish territory, only from the several military outposts Turkey has in Iraq. They said no Turkish weapons near Zakho were fired on Wednesday.

While the prime minister of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, where Zakho is located, outright blamed Turkey in his Arabic statement, the English version only mentions “infighting by Turkey and the PKK”. Masrour Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party, which rules Iraqi Kurdistan, has longstanding relations with Turkey.

'We reiterate our call to the Iraqi authorities to focus on the fight against terrorism and to put an end to terrorist presence on their territory'

- Turkish foreign ministry

State-owned Anadolu news agency quoted Turkey's UN representative Oncu Keceli as saying at the Security Council meeting that several mortar rounds had fallen close to the consulate as they talked.

According to two security sources, four landed within the perimeter of the consulate facility early on Wednesday.

Following last week's shelling, Baghdad called on the Security Council to pass a resolution demanding that Ankara withdraw its troops from northern Iraq where it maintains a network of bases as part of its long-running campaign against the PKK.

Consulate reopened

Shut for years, the Turkish consulate in Mosul reopened in May last year. It had been closed in 2014 when its consul and dozens of local and foreign staff were abducted by militants from the Islamic State (IS) group.

The building housing the consulate was bombed in an air strike by the US-led coalition in 2016.

After the city was liberated from IS control in 2017, Turkish officials repeatedly promised to reopen the consulate, but it was hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Friday, two bomb-laden drones were shot down near a Turkish base in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to al-Araby al-Jadeed news site.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but a pro-Iran Telegram channel popular among pro-Tehran armed factions in Iraq praised an action of "the Iraqi resistance".

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