At least three people died in a Turkish airstrike on Saturday that hit a school playground in a camp in northern Iraq housing thousands of Kurdish refugees from Turkey.
The attack on the Makhmour camp 180 km south of the Turkish border came two days after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claimed it was a haven for Kurdish militants, and warned Iraq that Turkey would “clean it up.”
Turkish forces have stepped up attacks in the past year on bases of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), focusing their firepower and incursions mainly on a strip of territory up to 30 km inside Iraq.
Erdogan compared the Makhmour camp to the Mount Qandil region along Iraq’s eastern frontier, where the PKK has bases.
“The issue of Makhmur is as important to us as Qandil … because Makhmour has become the incubator of Qandil … and if we don’t intervene the incubator will continue producing terrorists,” he said.
“If the UN does not clean up this district, we will take care of it in our capacity as a UN member state.”
The UN-backed 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.
Makhmour was targeted by Turkish airstrikes a year ago, although there were no reports of casualties at the time, but a senior Turkish official said it was now a priority for Ankara.
In a separate incident on Saturday, five Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were killed and four wounded in an ambush by the PKK on Matin mountain in the town of Amedi in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The People’s Defence Forces, 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.
The latest developments come weeks after Turkey’s ground and air offensive against PKK militants in Iraq in April raised concerns.