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Iraq army digging trench around refugee camp in Kurdish region

May 25, 2023 at 12:44 pm

Makhmour refugee camp in Iraq [MakhmourCamp/Twitter]

The Iraqi army has commenced an operation to dig a trench and establish security observation points around the Makhmour refugee camp, which hosts hundreds of families of members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The camp is situated on the border between the provinces of Nineveh and Erbil, neighbouring Turkiye says the camp has become a recruiting venue for PKK militants.

Iraqi forces started a deployment operation in the town of Makhmour, located approximately 105 kilometres southeast of Mosul and 70 kilometres west of Erbil. The camp houses over 1,500 families from the Kurdish regions of Turkiye, who are relatives of the PKK militants. The PKK has been involved in an armed struggle for independence against the Turkish state.

The new Iraqi action aims to restrain the PKK’s practices within the camp, such as recruitment operations that the targeting of teenagers and young people within the camp, hiding of weapons and establishing electronic media cells that serve the party, which is classified as a terrorist group by Turkiye, the EU and the US.

A senior Iraqi official in Baghdad told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed yesterday that the engineering units in the Iraqi army began to establish a security trench around the camp, with the installation of surveillance towers and specific entry and exit gates.

This, the official added, comes “after the PKK incited the camp’s residents to attack the army and prevent it from entering the camp.”

The Iraqi move is expected to be met with Turkish satisfaction, especially after a series of security meetings between the two countries in which Ankara expressed its concern that the camp may become a centre of military activities for the PKK.

Turkish forces have previously carried out several air strikes within the camp, which is established in an area extending up to 20 kilometres, constructed of stone and brick, and houses at least 12,000 people. The United Nations and European organisations have built a health centre, a school and some facilities for its residents.

In early June 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened that his country would “cleanse” the Makhmour camp. He stated that “the camp had become a safe haven for the PKK militants”, explaining that it serves as an “incubator for PKK militants and this must be addressed.”

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