Turkey on Wednesday rejected Iraqi state media claims that it had carried out a strike on a mountain resort in Iraq’s northern Dohuk province that killed eight tourists and wounded 23 people.
The “fierce artillery bombing” hit a resort in Zakho, a city on the border between Iraq’s Kurdistan region and Turkey, Iraq state TV said.
Children were among the victims, including a 1-year-old, the Kurdish health minister said in a statement, adding that all the victims died before reaching a hospital.
“We go towards the mountainside, there are strikes. We go towards the waterfall, there are strikes. We go towards this side, there are strikes,” said Mustafa Aala, 24, who was at the resort with a friend when the attack occurred.
“We pulled up the fence that was around the waterfall. We looked from inside, I saw children lying on the ground. … It’s a scene that I’ve never seen in my life,” Aala added.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said Ankara was saddened to hear of the casualties in the attack and added that Turkey took maximum care to avoid civilian casualties or damaging historic cultural sites in its counterterrorism operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militia and others.
“Turkey is ready to take every step for the truth to come out,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that Turkish military operations were in line with international laws.
“We call on the Iraqi government to not make remarks influenced by the heinous terrorist organization’s rhetoric and propaganda, and to engage in cooperation to uncover the perpetrators of this cruel act,” it said, referring to the PKK.
Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes in northern Iraq and has sent commandos to support its offensives as part of a long-running campaign in Iraq and Syria against militants of the Kurdish PKK and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Ankara regards both as terrorist groups.
The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which in the past was mainly focused on southeast Turkey where the PKK sought to create an ethnic homeland.
The top U.N. envoy to Iraq condemned Wednesday’s attack in a statement published on Twitter and called for an investigation.