The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant group operating in northern Iraq, has called for an independent investigation into an ambush that killed several Peshmerga soldiers on Sunday.
Kurdish news site Rudaw reported that PKK-affiliated outlets carried a statement from the PKK that denied its members killed five and wounded seven Peshmerga troops travelling in a convoy on Saturday. The group admitted to firing “warning shots” at the vehicles, but insists that it did not destroy the armored car carrying the soldiers.
“It is true that our forces there fired warning shots. However, it is certain that no weapon was used by our forces that could have led to unfortunate consequences and destroyed the vehicle in such a way,” the People’s Defence Forces (HPG), the military wing of the PKK, said in a statement on Sunday published by Firat News Agency (ANF), which is affiliated with the group.
The statement adds that it was a “missile from the air” that caused the explosion, but a senior Peshmerga official Sarbast Lazgin blamed the PKK for the incident, according to Rudaw.
However, another statement shared with the PKK-affiliated Hawar News outlet suggested a landmine could have also been responsible for the explosion.
“Most of the area is under control of the HPG forces and has been mined against the Turkish occupation. Despite the warning shots, an explosion occurred and resulted in unknown casualties in one or two vehicles,” said the statement.
The PKK said the conflicting stories should warrant a separate investigation into the incident to determine responsibility.
Saturday’s incident comes at a time where the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) based in Erbil is increasing its efforts against the PKK. After the incident, the KRG presidency denounced the group’s presence as “unlawful” and Erbil has for months skirmished with PKK fighters within its territory.
Turkey has also conducted more operations against the PKK in northern Iraq, its traditional sanctuary. In April, Turkey launched its latest incursion against the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan, the air and ground operations are respectively codenamed Operation Claw-Lightning and Operation Claw-Thunderbolt.
A day after the Peshmerga soldiers were killed, a Turkish airstrike hit the Makhmour refugee camp that officials claim killed a senior PKK commander. Three refugees were killed in the attack, leading Iraq’s President Barham Salih to condemn the action and demand an end to Turkish military operations on Iraqi territory.
The PKK is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and European Union, and it has led a four-decade insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey itself.