Erdogan warns militias in Iraq not to attack Turkmen

A handout picture taken and released on October 26, 2016 by the Turkish Presidential Press Office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivering a speech during the 29th Muhktars Meeting at the Presidential Complex in Ankara. (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday warned militias in Iraq against attacking Turkmen residents of Tal Afar, a town near ISIS’s Mosul bastion.

“If the Hashed al-Shaabi sow terror there, then our response will be different,” Erdogan said, in comments carried by the state-run Anadolu news agency, without specifying what measures would be taken.

The Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary umbrella organization dominated by Iran-backed militias, launched an operation on Saturday to cut ISIS-held Mosul off from Syria.

They began pushing toward Tal Afar from the western approach to the city, the only side where ground forces, who have advanced from the north, east and south, are not yet deployed.

Tal Afar was a Shiite-majority town of mostly ethnic Turkmen before ISIS extremists overran it in 2014, and its recapture is a main goal of militia fighters.

The town is also key to ISIS for linking its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa to Mosul, currently the target of a massive military offensive launched by the Iraqi government.

Erdogan assured that Turkey “would not look favorably” on an attack by militias on Tal Afar.

Since the offensive against Mosul began, Turkey has stated its opposition to the participation of militias.

The militias have in the past been accused of committing atrocities when entering Sunni-majority towns. They have already said they have no plans to enter Mosul.

Erdogan’s veiled warning came two days after his foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said that Turkey would view an advance on Tal Afar as a threat and was ready to take “adequate measures.”

Hundreds of Turkish soldiers are based at the Bashiqa camp in Mosul province in northern Iraq, officially to train volunteers.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49