3 Turkish soldiers killed in mortar attack from Iraq

The attack targeted a military base in the border province of Hakkari, according to the ministry. (AFP)
Updated 04 May 2019
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3 Turkish soldiers killed in mortar attack from Iraq

  • A fourth soldier was wounded

ISTANBUL, ANKARA : Three Turkish soldiers died on Saturday in a mortar attack by Kurdish militants launched from Iraqi territory, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.

“Three of our brothers in arms died as martyrs after mortar fire from northern Iraq by terrorists,” the ministry said, in reference to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

A fourth soldier was wounded, it said in a statement. The attack took place in a region where Turkey carried out a cross-border operation dubbed Euphrates Shield in 2016, aiming to drive Daesh militants and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from its border with Syria, the ministry said.

The army had retaliated with artillery fire but gave no further details on the whereabouts of the attack, it said.

Fighting insurgency

The attack targeted a military base in the border province of Hakkari, according to the ministry.

The Turkish Army had responded with aerial bombardments and artillery fire. The PKK, branded a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU, has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. The conflict has claimed more than 40,000 lives, the ministry added.

The PKK’s deployment in northern Iraq has been a constant source of tension between Baghdad and Ankara, with Turkey pressing Iraq to play a bigger role in fighting the group.

The Defense Ministry also said that another Turkish soldier had been killed on Saturday in northern Syria by the YPG, a Kurdish militia closely allied with the PKK.

Unlike the PKK, however, the YPG has the backing of Western powers in its fight against Daesh.

Turkish forces shelled YPG positions in the Tel Rifaat region earlier this year, saying this was in response to YPG fire.

Tel Rifaat is controlled by Kurdish-led forces and is located some 20 km east of Afrin, which has been under the control of Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) allies since an operation last year to drive out the YPG.

Turkey, which has long been one of the main backers of opposition groups fighting against Syria’s Bashar Assad, has conducted patrols with Russia, one of Assad’s main allies, in northern areas under agreements reached last year.

In March, the Defense Ministry said Turkish and Russian forces carried out the first “independent and coordinated” patrols in Tel Rifaat.


Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

Updated 44 min 26 sec ago
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Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

  • Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia held a memorial on Tuesday for the army chief of staff slain with four other senior officials in weekend attacks that posed the biggest threat yet to the prime minister's reforms.
Abiy Ahmed, who survived a grenade attack at a rally in his honour last year, sat in the front row at the memorial and wiped tears from his eyes with a white handkerchief.
Abiy took power 15 months ago and has won widespread international praise for kickstarting political and economic reforms. But his shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies at home.
His government is also struggling to contain discontent from Ethiopia's myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.
The foiled plot to seize control of the northern Amhara region and the assassinations in the national capital Addis Ababa underscored the threat of spiralling violence in Africa's second-most populous nation.
In addition to the killing of the chief of staff in the capital, Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and an adviser were killed in the region's main city Bahir Dar.
The attacks were led by Amhara's head of state security General Asamnew Tsige, who had been openly recruiting fighters for ethnic militias in a state that has become a flashpoint for violence.
Asamnew, the alleged coup plotter, was shot on Monday near Bahir Dar, according to the prime minister's office. He had served nearly a decade in jail for a previous coup plot, but was released as part of an amnesty last year.
RISKS
Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa.
Roads in the capital were blocked for the ceremony and security was tight. Access to the internet appeared to be blocked across Ethiopia for the third straight day, users reported.
The coffins of army chief of staff Seare Mekonnen and a retired general, both shot dead on Saturday by Seare's bodyguard in the national capital Addis Ababa, were wheeled into the hall, draped in Ethiopian flags.
Photographs of the men in formal military dress were adorned with yellow roses. Seare will be buried in his home region of Tigray on Wednesday.
At the memorial, the army's deputy chief of staff General Birhanu Jula spoke of the chief of staff's bravery in the guerrilla war against the Communist Derg regime that was toppled in 1991, and of his leadership role in Ethiopia's war against neighbouring Eritrea in the late 1990s.
The weekend killings came as Ethiopia prepares to hold parliamentary elections next year, although the electoral board warned this month that they were behind schedule and that instability could delay polling.
SECURITY FORCES
Ethiopia's ruling coalition, itself a grouping of ethnically-based parties, is facing an unprecedented challenge from strident ethno-nationalist parties, global think-tank Crisis Group said in a briefing note on Tuesday.
Asamnew, who allegedly orchestrated the killings, had been appointed by state authorities as regional security chief in an effort to claw back support from Amharas supporting more his more hardline policies, including expansion of Amhara's borders, the group said.
"The 22 June killings confirm the dangers in handing security portfolios to hardliners like Asamnew who are ready to pander to extreme ethno-nationalists, from whichever of Ethiopia’s ethnicities," the note read.
Ethiopia analysts say the prime minister must tread carefully to restore security. Too strong a response risks derailing his reforms and angering a polarised population. But failure to punish those responsible could see violence could spiral out of control.
Mehari Taddele Maru, an independent Ethiopian analyst, said the government should channel public anger through dialogue, but if ethnic rivalries spread to the federal armed forces, that could destroy the state, he said.