Baghdad (AFP), July 21 – An angry and grieving Iraq on Thursday buried nine holidaymakers – including a newlywed – killed in the artillery bombardment of a Kurdish village.
The government blamed neighboring Turkey, which denied its troops were responsible and instead blamed rebels from the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Germany has called for an urgent investigation.
The coffins of the nine dead, draped in Iraqi national flags and adorned with flowers, were flown by military plane to Baghdad from Arbil, capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
An honor guard carried the coffins during a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi on the tarmac of Baghdad airport, where his office said it met relatives of the victims who came to claim the bodies of their near to bury them.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and Kurdish Regional President Nechirvan Barzani led the pallbearers carrying the smallest of the coffins, that of a child, onto the military plane in Arbil, an AFP correspondent reported.
Wednesday’s shelling in the village of Parakh in Zakho district also injured 23 people, mostly domestic tourists seeking respite from the heat of the plains in the Kurdish northern mountains.
Among the dead was Abbas Alaa, 24, an engineer who had been married just a week, a friend named Nour said.
Alaa was on her honeymoon – her very first trip, Nour said – and his wife was injured.
“We can’t believe it,” said Nour, who waited with other friends in a modest house in Baghdad for relatives to return with her corpse.
“It doesn’t happen in any other country, only in Iraq,” Nour said.
The deaths sparked angry anti-Turkish protests in cities across Iraq.
In Baghdad, dozens of protesters demonstrated outside the Turkish visa office early Thursday, despite a heavy police presence.
Loudspeakers played patriotic songs as demonstrators chanted slogans demanding the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador, an AFP journalist reported.
Protesters held up portraits of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described as “terrorists”. They trampled on the Turkish flags.
“We want to burn down the embassy. The ambassador must be expelled,” said protester Ali Yassin, 53. “Our government is doing nothing.
Similar protests took place on Wednesday evening in the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala and in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
– ‘Blatant violation’ –
The German Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that “the circumstances of the attack and those responsible” must be urgently investigated.
“The German government attaches great importance to respect for the sovereignty of the Iraqi state and international law,” he said.
In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said that “Iran regards Iraq’s security as its own security and will not hesitate to provide assistance in this regard.”
In an unusually strong rebuke, Iraqi Prime Minister Kadhemi warned Turkey that Iraq reserved the “right to retaliate”.
Kadhemi called the artillery fire a “flagrant violation” of sovereignty – a line echoed by the Kurdistan administration.
Iraq announced that it was recalling its charge d’affaires from Ankara and demanded an official apology from Turkey as well as “the withdrawal of its armed forces from all Iraqi territory”.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry denied responsibility for the bombing, saying these “types of attacks” were carried out by “terrorist organisations”.
On its Twitter account, the Turkish Embassy expressed its condolences to “our Iraqi brothers killed by the PKK terrorist organization”.
Ankara in April launched an offensive in northern Iraq dubbed “Operation Claw-Lock”, which it says targets PKK fighters.
Rebels have maintained a deadly insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey since 1984.
Ankara’s Western allies also label the group a “terrorist organization”.
Over the past 25 years, the Turkish military has maintained dozens of outposts in the Kurdish north of Iraq as part of its campaign against the rebels. There have been sporadic calls for their removal.
Iraq and Turkey are trading partners but Ankara’s successive offensives against PKK rear bases in the north have been a persistent source of tension in relations, especially when they have resulted in civilian casualties.