Two high-ranking Iraqi officers were killed Tuesday in what the army said was a “blatant Turkish drone attack” in the autonomous Kurdish region, where Ankara has for weeks been raiding militant positions.
The strike killed two border guard battalion commanders and the driver of their vehicle, the army said in a statement.
It is the first time members of the regular Iraqi forces have been killed since Turkey launched a cross-border ground and air operation in mid-June against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels in the mountainous terrain of northern Iraq.
Iraq has already summoned the Turkish envoy in Baghdad twice in protest at Ankara’s operations on its soil.
Ihsan Chalabi, the mayor of nearby Sidakan in the north of Arbil province, told AFP that the drone strike in the Pradost region targeted “Iraqi border guard commanders while they were in meetings with PKK fighters.”
Witnesses had reported clashes earlier in the day between PKK and Iraqi forces, and local sources said the drone strike targeted an emergency meeting called to try to calm the tensions.
The Iraqi presidency issued a statement denouncing “a dangerous violation of Iraqi sovereignty” and called on Ankara to “stop all its military operations” in the region.
At least five civilians have been killed since the start of the Turkish campaign in June.
Ankara has announced the death of two of its soldiers, and the PKK and its allies have reported the deaths of 10 fighters and supporters.
The PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies, has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
It has long used the rugged terrain of northern Iraq as a rear base to wage attacks on Turkey, which in turn had set up military positions inside Iraqi territory to fight them.
A ground assault launched on June 17 and dubbed Operation Claw Tiger has seen Turkish troops advance up to 40 km (25 miles) inside Iraq and establish over 30 “temporary bases”, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
On June 14, Turkish fighter jets hit Kurdish militant targets in Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq with around 20 missiles, security sources told Al Arabiya.
Al Arabiya English’s Souad El Skaf contributed to this report.