Iraq arrests three linked to PKK for planning attacks on key oil pipeline, markets

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Iraq said on Monday it had arrested three people linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and suspected of planning attacks across the country, including on a key oil export pipeline in the north.

Interior ministry officials showed reporters three suspects dressed in yellow jumpsuits with their faces covered by masks and said they had comprised a cell connected to the PKK.

“An investigation showed that these PKK members had plans to attack the Ceyhan oil pipeline linking Kirkuk, Erbil and Duhok to Turkey,” Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Muqdad Meeri told a press conference in Baghdad.

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Meeri said that the three had confessed to setting sabotage fires at commercial markets in the Kurdistan region including the city of Kirkuk over the past few months.

He said the recent fires had incurred losses of around $300 million and were ordered by the PKK as a part of a campaign to attack the commercial interests of a “neighbouring state”, which Iraqi security officials said was Turkey.

The PKK, which has bases around northern Iraq, is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union. The group launched an insurgency in southeast Turkey in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

In a statement, the PKK dismissed the interior ministry accusations and denied involvement in the arson attacks, which it blamed on Turkey’s intelligence agency and a security agency affiliated to the party that runs Iraq’s Kurdish region.

Turkish forces regularly carry out strikes in neighbouring Iraq as part of an offensive against PKK militants based there.

Iraq has stepped up pressure on the PKK since a visit by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to Baghdad in April.

Meeri said the arrested suspects had also planned to attack busy markets areas in the capital Baghdad if there was “pressure from the federal government or government forces against them”.

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