Turkey Says Its Artillery Aiding Iraq Kurds
The Latest on developments in Iraq where Iraqi forces and their allies launched a major offensive this week to retake Mosul, the country’s second-largest city from the Islamic State group.
Turkey’s prime minister says Turkish artillery has begun aiding Kurdish forces in their operation to liberate the town of Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, from the Islamic State group.
Speaking to reporters Sunday, Binali Yıldırım said Kurdish peshmerga forces “requested support from our soldiers at the Bashiqa base” and that Turkish tanks and artillery were now aiding them.
Relations between Ankara and Baghdad have been strained after Turkey sent hundreds of troops to the Bashiqa region to train anti-IS fighters there. Baghdad labels the move a violation of its sovereignty and demands Turkish withdrawal, a call which Ankara ignores.
Turkey claims the use of Shiite militias to liberate Mosul will displace its largely Sunni population, and has demanded the Sunni fighters it has trained also play a role in the Mosul campaign.
Kurdish forces say they have “cordoned off” eight villages northeast of Mosul and are now less than 9 kilometers (5 ½ miles) from the outskirts of the Islamic State-held city.
Kurdish and Iraqi forces launched an operation earlier Sunday to try and retake the town of Bashiqa, to the northeast of Mosul, part of a massive offensive that got underway a week ago.
The Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, said in a statement that the area that was cordoned off measures around 100 square kilometers (38 square miles). It says they also secured a “significant stretch” of highway to limit the militants’ movements.
The statement says eight car bombs were destroyed in the operation, including three by U.S.-led coalition aircraft, and “dozens” of militants were killed.