IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — A cluster of rockets targeted a Turkish military base in northern Iraq on Wednesday, officials from northern Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region said. An Iranian-backed militia promptly claimed responsibility for the attack.
A Turkish defense ministry official said there was no damage or injury at the base but did not provide further details. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
According to a statement from the Iraqi Kurdish region's anti-terrorism department, at least eight rockets were fired at Turkey's Zilkan military base in Iraq's northern Nineveh province, with two hitting the base itself.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar dismissed the incident, saying the base comes under attack “from time to time,” prompting retaliatory fire. He said the Turkish soldiers were “fighting there with increased resolve and determination.”
Turkey has long been conducting military operations in northern Iraq, with both ground and air forces, to battle the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has been waging a decadeslong insurgency against Ankara.
The PKK maintains sanctuaries in the Kurdish region of Iraq and Turkish forces have frequently launched airstrikes targeting the PKK.
Separately from its operations against the PKK, Turkey was also part of the war against the Islamic State group — which seized control of much of the area in 2014 — and an ally in the U.S.-led anti-IS campaign.
Turkey has also set up several bases in the area — much to the displeasure of Baghdad officials and some in the regional Iraqi Kurdish government, which has not officially condemned the Turkish troop presence. The facilities have occasionally been targeted in rocket attacks.
Turkey established Zilkan base in 2015, during the war against IS. It is located close to the Iraqi city of Mosul, at the time a stronghold of the extremists.
The Iraqi government has frequently condemned Turkey's military presence, often describing it as illegal.
Shortly after Wednesday's attack, the Islamic Resistance Ahrar al-Iraq Brigade — which is part of Iraq's pro-government, Iran-backed umbrella group of Shiite militias called the Popular Mobilization Forces — said it was behind the rocket fire.
Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report.