« The so-called Bashiqa base, which has long been a source of tension between Ankara and Baghdad, is a frequent target of rocket attacks by pro-Iranian groups in Iraq » reports Al-Monitor on February 1, 2023.
Series of rockets targeted a Turkish military base near the northeastern Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday, prompting retaliation from the Turkish side. A pro-Iranian group claimed responsibility but no casualties were reported.
Iraqi authorities said the attackers fired eight rockets shortly before 8 a.m. local time at the Bashiqa military base. Two of the rockets struck the base grounds and the others landed in the vicinity of the base, according to a Facebook post by Iraqi Kurdistan’s counter-terrorism department.
The Iraqi and international media reported that a pro-Iranian group claimed responsibility for the attack. Northern Iraqi news outlet Rudaw identified the group as The Islamic Resistance Ahrar al-Iraq Brigade. The group claimed to have fired 20 rockets at the base, Rudaw reported, citing the militant group’s statement released on a Telegram account.
The group is part of Iraq’s pro-government and operates under Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU).
In response to a question over the attack, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkish troops in northern Iraq come under harassment fires or attacks « from time to time, and these are being responded to in kind immediately. »
“We continue our unabated and intensified campaigns in northern Iraq to eliminate terrorism and terrorists,” he told reporters at the Turkish parliament.
The Bashiqa base is a frequent target of rocket attacks by a pro-Iranian militia that has vocally opposed the Turkish military presence and cross-border operations in northern Iraq.
Turkey, which set up the base in a bid to train Sunni forces against the Islamic State onslaught in 2015, now uses the post as part of its military campaigns against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), headquartered in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Some of the past rocket attacks on the base were carried out “in cooperation with the PKK,” according to a Pentagon inspector general report last year.
The Turkish military presence in the region has also turned into a contentious point between Ankara and Baghdad, which has repeatedly called on the Turkish government to withdraw from the base.
Turkey has established several military bases and outposts in northern Iraq. Last year, the Iraqi government blamed the Turkish forces for artillery strike in northern Iraq that killed nine civilians, including children. Ankara denied any responsibility.
Al-Monitor, February 1, 2023.