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Iraq accuses Turkey of deadly attack on tourists near Kurdish City

Nine tourists were killed following a shelling attack on a water park near the Kurdish City of Zakho with the Iraqi government holding Turkey responsible. 

The Iraqi government has accused Turkish forces of an attack on its citizens in a resort near the Kurdish city of Zakho (Southern Kurdistan). Turkey denied it had launched strikes against civilians and instead claimed that the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), was responsible.

Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, received some of the bodies at Baghdad airport as anger mounted in the Iraqi capital and in Karbala, the Shia shrine city in central Iraq where many of the victims were from. Coffins carrying the dead were draped with Iraqi flags and flown in on a military aircraft, a sign of the political importance Baghdad has attached to the incident.

Protesters rallied outside Turkish government buildings in both cities, angrily demanding accountability from Ankara. Germany has called for an urgent investigation, while the US and Iran have expressed concern.

Iraq has filed a complaint to the U.N. Security Council, requesting an urgent session to discuss a deadly artillery attack. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad al-Sahaf said the ministry also recalled Iraq's chargé d’affaires from Ankara. Iraq’s parliament held a session Saturday on the attack, with lawmakers deciding to form a committee to investigate further.

In recent months there have been frequent clashes in the area, a mountainous pocket of Iraq close to the Turkish border in which Turkish troops maintain bases. The presence of the Turkish army on Iraqi soil has long been a point of friction between Baghdad and Ankara, but the Kurdistan regional government of Iraq has facilitated the Turkish presence to help combat the PKK, which it accuses of subverting its authority. The PKK calls for greater Kurdish self-governance and is involved in an armed struggle with the Turkish state. Kurds make up 15-20% of Turkey's population but have faced persecution there for generations.

Authorities in Erbil were examining whether Turkish gunners had fired at the tourist group after mistaking them for guerrillas, whether PKK members had been in the area, or whether the militia group itself had been responsible. The PKK has a strong presence in the area but is not known to have artillery pieces there.

Survivors said shells started to fall on Wednesday afternoon without warning. Videos showed mass panic among people as explosions echoed.

Read more at BBC 

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