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Turkish air strike kills three in northern Iraq Kurdish refugee camp

Turkey's President Erdogan had threatened to target the area, which he claimed is 'an incubator for terrorists'
A girl holds a baby at the Debaga camp for displaced Iraqis, east of Makhmur, in northern Iraq on 25 Ma 2021 (File photo/AFP)

A Turkish air strike on Saturday killed at least three people and wounded others at a camp for displaced people in northern Iraq housing thousands of Kurdish refugees, an official said.

Rashad Galali, a Kurdish MP from Makhmur, told AFP the strike targeted "a kindergarten near a school" in the UN-supported camp, which houses Kurdish refugees from Turkey.

"Three civilians were killed and two wounded," he said.

The Turkish government has yet to comment on the bombing, which took place three days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to target the area. 

Erdogan claimed the area was "an incubator" for "terrorists" linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). He compared Makhmur to the Mount Qandil region along Iraq's eastern frontier, where the PKK has rear bases.

"The issue of Makhmur is as important to us as Qandil... because Makhmur has become the incubator of Qandil... and if we don't intervene the incubator will continue producing [terrorists]," he said on Thursday.

"If the United Nations does not clean up this district, we will take care of it in our capacity as a UN member state," Erdogan warned.

Makhmour, a camp 180km south of the Turkish border, has hosted thousands of refugees from Turkey for more than two decades.

The camp was established in the 1990s when thousands of Kurds from Turkey crossed the border in a movement Ankara says was deliberately provoked by the PKK.

Turkey has fought a guerilla war with the PKK since 1984, when the organisation started its armed campaign to carve out an independent Kurdish state. The group now says it wants greater autonomy for Kurds in Turkey.

The fighting is believed to have resulted in at least 40,000 deaths since the conflict began. Turkey, the European Union and the United States have designated the PKK as a terrorist group.

Saturday's drone attack came hours after five Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters were killed in clashes with the PKK in the Mount Matin district of northern Dohuk province, an official said.

Serbast Lazkin, deputy minister for peshmerga affairs in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, said two peshmerga fighters were also wounded in the clash.

The People's Defence Forces (HPG), the armed wing of the PKK, accused the peshmerga of entering "a conflict zone in Matin" between it and Turkey "which wants to occupy Iraqi Kurdistan".

"These peshmerga movements are a stab in the back for the PKK, and we refuse their entry into an area under our control," it said in a statement.