Turkish troops march into Iraqi Kurdistan villages, make threats
More than a hundred Turkish soldiers marched into villages in Iraqi Kurdistan on Thursday to threaten locals considering heading to nearby mountains housing militants.
The soldiers entered the villages of Lelkan, Khalifan and Halkeran in the Bradost area, a well-informed source from the area told The New Arab on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.
The soldiers "warned the villagers not to go to the nearby mountains, otherwise they would be targeted,” the source said.
“The soldiers did not let locals take photos and videos, and they only left the villages after several hours."
The source said that Thursday’s move by the Turkish army was to scare locals away from cooperating with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed group that has been waging a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state for greater rights for Kurds in Turkey.
The PKK has made parts of the Qandil mountain range that straddles Iran and Iraq their stronghold. Since the 1990s, the Turkish army has established dozens of military bases inside Iraqi Kurdistan with the stated aim of fighting off the rebel group.
The source said that Turkish forces have not allowed Bradost locals to go to their mountainside vineyards since 2017.
The New Arab contacted Ihsan Chalabi, mayor of the Sidakan sub-district under which Bradost falls, but he was not available for comment.
The presence of Turkish troops in the area was reported by some local news outlets.
Kurdsat News, a television channel linked to one of Iraqi Kurdistan's ruling parties, reported that the Turkish army made a incursion in the area with a depth of three kilometres which sparked panic among locals.
Roj News, an outlet affiliated with the PKK, reported that the “Turkish forces threatened locals of four villages from the Bradost area with retaliation if they made any threats to their bases.”
But Jabar Yawar, head of the ministry for Iraqi Kurdistan's armed forces, told The New Arab in a phone call that he was "unaware" of such news reports.
The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the umbrella entity for the PKK and affiliated organisations, warned last week that Turkey was preparing to launch a new military operation against the PKK by mid-April - potentially with the support of Iraqi Kurdish forces.