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BAGHDAD (AP) — An explosion struck subsequent to the Suleimaniyah Worldwide Airport in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish area Friday, native officers stated.

The blast got here days after Turkey closed its airspace to flights to and from the airport, citing an alleged enhance in Kurdish militant exercise threatening flight security.

Turkey has spent years combating Kurdish militants in its east. Giant Kurdish communities additionally reside in neighboring Iraq and Syria the place they’ve a level of self-rule.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.Okay.-based opposition struggle monitor, and a few native media reported that the explosion was a Turkish drone assault on Mazloum Abdi, the chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the primary U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led drive in Syria.

Officers with the SDF and the Kurdish regional authorities in northeast Syria denied that Abdi was in Suleimaniyah on the time or had been the goal of an assault.

Fethullah al-Husseini, a consultant of the Kurdish self-rule administration in northeast Syria, stated Abdi was “carrying on his work and is in northeast Syria.”

The airport’s safety directorate stated in an announcement that an explosion passed off close to the fence surrounding the airport at 4:18 p.m. native time, inflicting a hearth however no accidents. It stated the reason for the blast was below investigation and the airport was working usually.

Lawk Ghafuri, head of international media affairs for the Kurdish regional authorities in Iraq, stated investigations had been nonetheless underway and that he was unable to substantiate whether or not the explosion had been a drone assault.

Nevertheless, an announcement from the Iraqi Kurdish regional authorities appeared in charge native authorities in Suleimaniyah, which it accused of frightening an “assault” on the airport and utilizing “authorities establishments” for “unlawful actions.”

The regional authorities, with its seat in Irbil, is primarily managed by the Kurdish Democratic Celebration, whereas Suleimaniyah is a stronghold of the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Two Kurdish officers in Irbil, who spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed to debate the incident with reporters, stated that the explosion was attributable to a drone assault. One in every of them stated the assault had focused Abdi.

A consultant of the Turkish protection ministry stated he had no details about the incident.

Turkey’s international ministry announced Wednesday that Turkish airspace was closed to flights taking off from and touchdown on the Suleimaniyah airport.

Turkish officers stated the closure was a response to an alleged enhance within the actions of the banned Kurdistan Staff’ Celebration, or PKK, within the metropolis of Suleimaniyah, together with its “infiltration” of the airport.

The choice got here weeks after two helicopters crashed in northern Iraq, killing Kurdish militants who had been on board. The incident fueled claims that the PKK was in possession of helicopters, infuriating Turkish authorities.

The SDF later stated it misplaced 9 fighters, together with a commander, within the crash, which occurred throughout dangerous climate on a flight to Suleimaniyah. The 9 included elite fighters who had been in Iraq as a part of an “alternate of experience” within the combat towards the Islamic State group, the SDF stated.

Officers from the Kurdish Democratic Celebration, which has maintained largely good relations with Turkey, alleged after the crash that the helicopters had been initially bought by the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and that that they had been flying with out permission from the regional authorities.

The Kurdish regional authorities was compelled final month to cease exporting practically half 1,000,000 barrels of oil by means of by way of a pipeline to Turkey. That adopted a choice by the Worldwide Chamber of Commerce siding with the central Iraqi authorities in Baghdad in a long-standing dispute over the impartial export of oil by the Kurdish area.

Final week Baghdad and Irbil reached a deal to renew the oil exports.

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Related Press writers Hogir Abdo in Qamishli, Syria, Suzan Fraser in Istanbul and Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report. Abdul-Zahra reported from Boston.

By Maggi

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