Airfield hit by Turkey hosts regular forces: Kurdish official

A senior Iraqi Kurdistan official denied Ankara's claim that foreign fighters had been at an Iraqi airfield hit by a deadly drone strike attributed to Turkey.

An Iraqi airfield hit by a deadly drone strike attributed to Turkey hosts only regular forces, an Iraqi Kurdistan official said Wednesday, denying Ankara's claim foreign fighters had been at the airfield, The New Arab reported.

Monday's strike on Arbat airfield, southeast of the city of Sulaimani, killed three members of the counterterrorism forces of Iraq's autonomous northern region of Kurdistan and wounded three others.

Baghdad pointed the finger at Ankara, which regularly carries out military operations in northern Iraq against militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). It has also targeted the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from Syria.

Without saying it was behind the attack, Turkey on Tuesday accused counterterrorism forces affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in power in Sulaimani of training with "PKK/YPG terrorists" at the time of the explosion.

But a senior official in the Kurdish region on Wednesday denied the presence of PKK or YPG fighters at the airfield.

"The martyrs and the injured were all members of the counterterrorism forces," said Kurdistan deputy prime minister Qubad Talabani.

"There were no other forces at the airport except the forces of the counterterrorism services," he added.

Talabani described Monday's strike as a "dangerous precedent because it targeted an official Iraqi force from Kurdistan", in remarks during a meeting with the European Union's representative in Kurdistan, Torkild Byg, according to the PUK's website.

In April, Baghdad accused Ankara of carrying out a "bombardment" near Sulaimaniyah airport while US soldiers and the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces – a US-backed alliance dominated by the YPG – were present.

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