ISTANBUL, April 19, (AFP): The Turkish army killed 32 suspected fighters from the Islamic State group in northern Iraq on Tuesday following an attack on one of its tanks, Turkish media reported. Turkish troops destroyed a building used by IS, killing 10 jihadists, and then killed another 22 who tried to flee the scene, the Anatolia news agency said. It was not immediately possible to independently verify the toll.
The agency said the incident occurred after militants fired an anti-tank missile at one of its tanks near the Bashiqa military camp not far from the city of Mosul, which has been an IS stronghold since 2014. Dogan news agency said the tank crew was unhurt and that they had fired back in response, shelling the building from which the fire came and causing it to collapse, killing 10 jihadists.
They also fired at a group of people fleeing the scene in seven cars and four motorcycles, killing 22 of them, the agency said. Last month, a Turkish soldier was killed and another wounded when missiles fired by IS fighters hit another military base in northern Iraq during clashes with local Kurdish forces. Bashiqa camp has been targeted several times by IS jihadists.
In December, Turkey said it had sent hundreds of troops to Bashiqa to protect Turkish military personnel involved in training Iraqi fighters, sparking a diplomatic row with Baghdad. At the time, a senior Turkish official said up to 300 soldiers and 20 tanks were deployed there, although an unspecified number were pulled back following US pressure to end the row with Baghdad. The same month, IS militants attacked the camp, wounding four soldiers, and tried again in January although the Turkish military repelled them, with Ankara claiming 18 IS jihadists were killed. Baghdad flatly denied the claim. Turkey says its troops are training Iraqi forces to fight IS extremists but Baghdad has accused Ankara of using training as a pretext to increase its influence in northern Iraq.