Europe

Turkish strike kills 3 Yazidi militiamen in northern Iraq, local officials say

DOHUK, Iraq (AP) — A Turkish strike in northern Iraq killed three Yazidi militiamen and wounded three others on Tuesday, regional officials said. A local official affiliated with the militia disputed that account, saying none of its fighters were killed, but that a shepherd died in the Turkish drone strike.

According to the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdish regional government, the early morning strike in the district of Sinjar targeted a headquarters of the Shingal Resistance Units, or YBS, in the village of Chumu-Khalaf.

An official with the central government in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the strike had targeted a meeting of high-ranking YBS officials.

Naif Shemo, head of the Sinjar Yazidi council, told The Associated Press that the area targeted by Turkish drones was an abandoned Yazidi village where most of the houses had been previously destroyed by the militant Islamic State group.

The YBS, made up of mostly minority Yazidis, was instrumental in driving out Islamic State militants from Sinjar after the collapse of the Iraqi army and withdrawal of the semi-autonomous Kurdish forces in 2014. The IS militants’ takeover of Sinjar killed and captured about 10,000 Yazidis in attacks that the United Nations classified as genocide.

Tuesday’s attack was the second such strike in just over a week. A similar strike on earlier this month killed three Yazidi militiamen, the Iraqi-Kurdish authorities said. Also at that time, a local official affiliated with the YBS denied any deaths.

The Turkish Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment. On Tuesday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that the Turkish military had “neutralized 126 terrorists” in the past month, according to Turkey’s state-owned broadcaster TRT.

The group has been a frequent target of Turkish attacks in recent years for its ties to the insurgent Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, a separatist movement banned in Turkey.

Continued violence in Sinjar has stunted beleaguered efforts to return Yazidis to their ancestral homeland in the province of Nineveh in northern Iraq after years of displacement.

Clashes last year between the Yazidi militia and the Iraqi army in heavily populated areas of war-scarred Sinjar caused as many as 10,000 people to flee the area, many of whom had returned from previous displacement, according to Kurdish officials.

Tensions remain high between the many groups operating in Sinjar. A power-sharing agreement brokered by the U.N. in October 2020 between Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish local government, stating that the federal police are the sole state authority, has failed to take hold.

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Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Istanbul and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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