3,000 Turkey-trained fighters in Mosul battle

As Turkish troop presence stirs tension with Baghdad, President Erdogan says his country is determined to free the city from the clutches of the IS

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire a multiple rocket launcher from the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 km east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against the IS. Pic/AFP
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire a multiple rocket launcher from the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 km east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against the IS. Pic/AFP

Irbil: Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said some 3,000 Turkish-trained Iraqi fighters have joined the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to wrest the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State (IS). Kurtulmus also told reporters yesterday that Turkey has no intention of withdrawing its troops from a base in northern Iraq where they have been training Iraqi forces to fight the IS.

The Turkish troop presence in the region of Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, has stirred tension with Baghdad. Iraq said they are in “violation” of Iraqi sovereignty and had demanded their withdrawal. Turkey replied the troops were invited by Iraqi forces and has ignored the calls.

Kurtulmus said Foreign Ministry’s Undersecretary Umit Yalcin was on his way to Baghdad to discuss the Turkish troops presence at the Bashiqa camp as well as the Mosul operation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is determined to be part of the operation to free Mosul from the IS, as well as in possible talks on the city’s future.

Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s concerns that the operation, which started early yesterday, could lead to sectarian clashes and maintained that efforts in Iraq to keep Turkey away from the Mosul offensive were linked to Ankara’s efforts to prevent any possible demographic change in the region.

Turkey is issuing warnings about possible sectarian clashes in Mosul if the majority Sunni region were placed under Shiite militia control.

Erdogan also said that once Mosul is liberated, Turkey can’t allow “a Sunni-Shiite strife” in the city. He insisted that Turkey “will be in the [Mosul] operation and we will be at the table. It is not possible for us to stay outside”.

Turkey’s state-run news agency said the peshmerga forces have taken control of seven villages east of Mosul and that they control the main road linking the city with the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital, Irbil, further to the east.

The Anadolu Agency report is quoting Helgurt Hikmet, a press officer in Irbil, as saying the seven villages are Tercele, Basahra, Little Bedene, Great Bedene, Kebervi, Baskelan and Sheikh Emir. The agency also said that two would-be IS suicide bombers were “neutralised” during the operations yesterday.

'Concerned for 1.5 million civilians'
The UN deputy secretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief voiced grave concern at risks faced by civilians as operations to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul began. “I am concerned for the safety of up to 1.5 million people living in Mosul who may be impacted by military operations to retake the city from IS,” Stephen O'Brien. He warned that “families are at extreme risk of being caught in the crossfire or targeted by snipers.”

Suicide car blast kills 10 south of Baghdad
A suicide car bomb explosion targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint south of Baghdad yesterday killed at least 10 people, security and medical sources said. The blast in Yusufiya, a frequently targeted area, also wounded 17 people, an interior ministry official said. A medic at the nearby Mahmudiyah hospital said at least four soldiers were among those killed in the blast.

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