Turkey killed 'instigator' of diplomat's assassination, state news agency says
Turkish military and intelligence forces killed the alleged instigator behind the assassination of diplomat Osman Kose, who was shot dead in a restaurant in Iraq’s Erbil last week, according to a Turkish state news agency.
Erdogan Unal, a senior commander with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a militant group operating in Turkey and Iraq, was killed in Iraq's Qandil mountains on Wednesday, Anadolu Agency reported on Friday without providing further details.
News of Unal's killing came a day after a Turkish official confirmed to MEE that Turkish military and intelligence forces had killed the alleged plotters behind Kose's assassination.
Intelligence officials have been tracking the perpetrators since the assassination that took place on 17 July, said the Turkish source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The first operation against one of the plotters was conducted a day after on a road in the Duhok countryside,” the official added.
“A second operation against the other terrorists took place on Wednesday, this time in the Batifa countryside. Two plotters and their bodyguards are neutralised.”
The source declined to provide more details about the operations against the perpetrators, citing sensitive security reasons. MEE couldn’t independently verify the details.
While Turkish officials have said they believed the diplomat was killed by the PKK, the group has rejected blame.
However, senior PKK commander Bahoz Erdal, a Syrian national, told PKK-aligned Sterk TV on Wednesday that the attack was conducted by the “youth” who don’t have direct links to the PKK but have sympathies for the group.
“We congratulate whoever is behind this operation, even though it has some amateurism,” Erdal said. The commander also claimed that the diplomat was an intelligence services asset who coordinated attacks against PKK targets.
Over the past year the Turkish military has been increasing its presence and influence in northern Iraq, establishing ad-hoc bases across the predominantly rural areas close to the Turkish border.
Turkish armoured vehicles were frequently spotted in Iraqi Kurdistan near Duhok last month as the military widens its operations against PKK elements in the area.
In a rare operation against PKK’s headquarters in Qandil mountains last month, the military killed Diyar Garip, a member of the group's central executive committee.
PKK commanders publicly confirmed that the attack took place and Garip was killed. Erdal said Garip’s death was avenged by the killing of the Turkish diplomat.
Iraqi Kurdistan security officials last week announced that they had arrested a suspect named Mazlum Dag over suspicions he was involved in Kose's assassination.
Dag's arrest was confirmed by Turkey's pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), one of whose MPs, Dersim Dag, is the suspect's brother.