Air strikes by Turkey kill civilian in Kurdish region of northern Iraq

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Turkish bombardment has killed a Kurdish shepherd in northern Iraq, a local official said on Friday, the first known civilian victim of Ankara’s air and ground assault on the region.

The official from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, Ihsan Chalabi, told AFP the shepherd was killed early Thursday morning when Turkish air strikes hit the Bradost district.

On Wednesday, Turkey launched a cross-border operation into the mountainous terrain of northern Iraq where the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has rear bases.

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Ankara considers the PKK a “terrorist” organization because of its decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Turkey has sporadically bombed PKK hideouts in northern Iraq but its new operation, dubbed “Claw-Tiger,” is a dramatic escalation and has prompted scores of families in the area to flee, according to local activists.

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Iraq’s foreign ministry has summoned Turkish ambassador Fatih Yildiz twice this week, demanding Ankara withdraw its special forces and halt the bombing campaign.

But Yildiz has been defiant, telling Iraqi authorities that if Baghdad did not take action against the rebels, Ankara would continue to “fight the PKK wherever it is.”

Iraq even summoned Iran’s envoy in response to cross-border shelling of Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Iran, which has its own Kurdish minority, has also been fighting Kurdish rebels who use Iraq as a base.

There has been no direct comment from Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, who is himself a Kurd and is close to top officials in the autonomous Kurdish region, where “Claw-Tiger” is taking place.

The regional government considers the PKK a rival group but have been unable to uproot it from its mountain hideouts.

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