Turkey hits ISIL positions in northern Iraq after Turkish soldier killed
AA photoTurkish artillery and warplanes struck Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in northern Iraq after a Turkish soldier was killed on March 26 during a gun battle between ISIL militants and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
The Turkish General Staff said in a statement that a Katyusha projectile fired from an ISIL location landed in the Bashiqa military camp in northern Iraq at around 3 p.m.
“Due to projectiles that fell on the base, our hero comrade has been martyred and one hero comrade was slightly injured,” said the statement.
First Lt. İsmail Cazgır was killed while another soldier was wounded in the attack. The wounded soldier was taken by helicopter to Şırnak State Hospital for treatment.
The Turkish army shelled ISIL positions after the attack, which was followed by an air campaign in cooperation with the anti-ISIL coalition forces.
The General Staff said in a separate statement that the anti-ISIL international coalition led by the U.S. had targeted the jihadist group’s positions in the northern part of Iraq after the incident.
“Four terrorist Daesh [ISIL] positions in the north of Iraq have been hit by warplanes of the [international] coalition,” said the army, using the Arabic acronym for the group.
“Right after, four additional targets were intensively shelled by Turkish Armed Forces planes; the targets were destroyed,” the statement read.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu confirmed the Turkish warplanes targeted ISIL positions in Iraq in line with engagement rules in the aftermath of the incident.
“At the end of the assessment we made with the General Staff chief, all positions that caused the martyrdom of our lieutenant were destroyed with the intervention of our air forces,” Davutoğlu told journalists at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul ahead of his departure for a two-day visit to Jordan.
Davutoğlu said another air campaign was carried out with the participation of coalition warplanes, adding that Turkey had revealed its strong will and power in the wake of any attack that targeted its military presence abroad.
In his remarks, the prime minister defended Turkey’s presence in Iraq, which he called “support for Iraqi brothers,” and said this presence aimed at meeting the security needs of the Iraqi government.
Bashiqa became a source of tension between Ankara and Baghdad last year when Turkish troops were deployed to the region to train an Iraqi militia to fight ISIL.
Following strong reactions both from the United States and Iraq, Turkey was forced to pull out a significant number of its troops and tanks from the camp, which was targeted by ISIL four times.
In the first attack, four soldiers were wounded while 18 ISIL militants were killed in return shelling. The last attack targeting the camp was on March 22.
Last week, backed by Peshmerga forces and the U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi forces launched an offensive against ISIL in the Makhmour area southeast of Mosul, which was touted as the start of a broader campaign to clear areas around the city.
Mosul is by far the largest population center controlled by ISIL militants and has already been cut off on three sides by the Peshmerga, who are less than 15 kilometers from its northern outskirts at some points along the front line.
Iraqi officials say they will retake Mosul this year. However, many have privately questioned whether the army, which partially collapsed when ISIL overran a third of Iraq in June 2014, will be ready in time.