The attack took place at a restaurant where Turkish diplomats working at the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city had gone for lunch, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu News Agency said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said three gunmen had entered the restaurant and opened fire at the diplomat, also hitting two Iraqis at an adjacent table.
“We are now treating the shooting incident in Erbil on Wednesday 17 July 2019, which killed three people, as a premeditated terrorist attack. Our investigation is ongoing and we will provide regular updates concerning its progress”, read KRG spokesperson Jotiar Adil’s announcement.
On Thursday evening, Erbil-based journalist Rasan Remzi tweeted that Kurdish authorities were searching for Diyarbakır-born Mazlum Dağ, who is suspected of being one of the attackers.
Kurdish Security Forces released the photo of one of those committed the attack on #Turkish Diplomats in #Erbil. Mazlum Dağ, born in #Diyarbakır in 1992. This man is wanted by Kurdish Security Forces. pic.twitter.com/J4XKbVCRHO
— Rasan Remzi (@RasanRemzi) July 18, 2019
No group has claimed the attack, which took place during a period of deadly clashes between Turkish armed forces and Kurdish militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in mountainous areas near Iraq’s border with Turkey.
The PKK, which Turkey defines as a terrorist organisation, launched an armed insurrection for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south east in 1984. The Qandil mountains in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region are known as a stronghold and headquarters for the militant group.
A PKK official has denied that the group’s fighters were involved in the incident, KRG-owned news outlet Kurdistan 24 reported.
“We have no information regarding the incident and only heard about it through the media,” Kurdistan 24 quoted Diyar Deniz, media director of the PKK’s armed wing People’s Defense Forces, as saying.
The extremist jihadist Islamic State (ISIS) has also been active in northern Iraq in recent years, and considers the Turkish government a legitimate target, according to a video featuring ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released this month.