The targeting of the Turkish military base in the Nineveh Plain northwest of Iraq periodically prompted the residents of that area to insist on the necessity of evacuating that base, which has so far been several times targeted by missiles, resulted in the injury of three civilians.
On February 3 and for the seventh time, six missiles were fired at the Turkish military base, and although the attack did not cause any damage, it increased the demands of the people of the area to shut down the base.
Per an agreement concluded between Turkey and the Iraqi government in 2016, as part of its participation in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS, Turkey established a military base in Zelkan, "for providing support to the Iraqi forces" in the field of military training, especially to the Sunni tribal mobilization forces, part of the Shiite paramilitary of Popular mobilization Forces PMF known as al-Hashid al-Shabi.
The camp is located on the outskirts of Bashik subdistrict in Al-Hamdaniya district, near Zelkan subdistrict of Shekhan district, of Ninewa province.
Hamad Amin Gharib, mayor of Zelkan, the closest local official in Ninewa to the Turkish camp, told KirkukNow the military base has been bombed seven times so far, and three civilians were wounded, and the presence of this base had a negative impact.
there is no reason for this military base to remain
“The local administration in the area and the residents of the villages are upset, in general. People are afraid that their lives will be endangered or forced to be displaced because of these attacks,” Gharib said.
“The area is safe and, in my opinion, there is no reason for this military base to remain.”
These fears come after the residents of the area were forced to flee during the ISIS war period from mid-2014 until late 2017, but they returned to their homes after the end of the war.
There are three villages close to the Turkish base: Gudat and Jebra, which are inhabited by a mixture of Kurds and Arabs, in addition to the village of Sharaf, which is inhabited by Arabs. The residents of those villages returned to their homes after the end of the war against ISIS.
"The camp is only 500 meters away from these villages," said the mayor of Zelkan.
About 40% of Zelkan residents have returned home after years of displacement. The population of Zelkan is about 50,000 people. The district includes 30 villages, the majority of which are Ezidis (Yazidis), beside Sunni Muslim Arabs and Kurds.
"We do not know who is targeting this military base, but the missiles are launched from the areas under the control of al-Hashid, despite the fact that following up and investigating this issue is one of the tasks of the security services," Gharib said.
Local official believe the Iraqi government should take a firm stand against the Turkish military base.
Ghazwan Hamid, a member of dissolved Ninewa Provincial Council beleives, "The presence of a Turkish military base in the area is nothing but a source of headache for the residents and security forces in the area, and its harms outweigh its benefits. The Iraqi government and parliament are to take a decision regarding the presence of this base."
The government and parliament must take steps in this regard and end the Turkish presence in the region
"They came to that area during Daesh war, the war ended, and the region is stable in terms of security so there is no need for the presence of this base,” Ghazwan continued. “Most of the council's members, before its dissolution, believed that Turkey wanted to extend its influence in the region through that military base."
Hamid won a seat of Ninewa Provincial Council as a representative of the Shabak community whom have an armed force that falls under the banner of the PMF deployed in the Nineveh Plains.
“The sound of the missiles targeting the military base is spreading fear and panic among the residents in particular those of Zelkan and Bashiqa and its villages who have just returned from displacement and need security and stability,” Ghazwan added.
A map showing the location of Bashiqa district between Ninewa and Erbil, the closest district to the Turkish military base
"This issue goes beyond the powers of the Ninewa local administration. The government and parliament must take steps in this regard and end the Turkish presence in the region."
While the provincial authorities have no evidence about who is targeting the military base, Ghazwan said, “Accusations are pointed at Iran-affiliated Kata’ib Hezbollah and Sayyid al-Shuhada, which is active in the regions of Iraq, including Ninewa, but there is no conclusive evidence and the Iraqi government must investigate and determine this.”
Kata'ib Hezbollah and Sayyid al-Shuhada, are pro-Shiite armed factions operating under the umbrella of the General Authority for the PMF. These factions are often accused by their opponents of being pro-Iranian.
The local residents of the war-torn region are afraid to fell victim for the conflict between Turkey and groups affiliated to Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK, fighting Turkey and holding territories in Iraq.
Ihsan Noun, an Ezidi resident of Bashiqa, says that every time the Turkish military base is bombed, they feel that they will have to flee again.
“We live at the bottom of the mountain, we and our children are very scared and do not feel safe, so we do not want this military base to remain in our area.”
In April 2021, a missile fired at the base, hit a house, injuring two children.
Shirwan Dobardani, a representative of Ninewa province in the Iraqi parliament from the Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP bloc, said the Turkish base was established upon approval of the Iraqi government with the aim of training Iraqi forces and “it is now continuing its missions...There is only a few number of military advisers and experts in that base."
"We believe that there are factions in al-Hashid al-Shabi involved in the attacks targeting the Turkish base, but let's assume that they are not responsible for that, so how do heavy weapons reach those areas and are directed towards the Turkish camp without their knowledge, since every time the missiles are launched from the areas under the control of the forces of Al-Hashid Al-Sha'bi," said Dobardani.
"If any Iraqi force does not support the survival of the Turkish base, it must work on that in the new government and parliament, and not through missile strikes which is not in anyone's interest."
The Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the region deny any contact with the base
Brigadier General Fahmi Sindi, the official in charge of the Nawaran region for the Peshmerga forces, says their base is 15 km away from The Turkish camp.
"It is true that this camp has become a source of headache in the region, but it is not possible to evacuate the camp in this way... All the missiles directed at the military base are launched from the areas of influence of Al-Hashid but we cannot be certain of the identity of the force behind it."
"The Peshmerga forces do not have any coordination or relations with that military base," Sindi added.
The PMF, which are accused after each attack, deny their involvement in those attacks.
Rami al-Abadi, in charge of combating intellectual terrorism in Ninewa, a division of the PMF, said, "The accusations against Al-Hashid are baseless. There is no evidence to prove that Al-Hashid is behind the bombing of the Turkish base."
"We see that there is a political party that wants to create problems and tension in the region and spoil the brotherhood and religious and social coexistence between the components of Ninewa," he added, without naming any party.
Following the recent attack on the base, a group calling itself (Ahrar Sinjar) stressed in a statement that it has been waiting for the federal government for a long time to take a position regarding the Turkish attacks on Shingal (Sinjar) district, west of Ninewa, but “it has not fulfilled its duty to protect the people of Sinjar, so we targeted the military base.”
In April 2021, following an attack on the Turkish base, the Turkish Ministry of Defense announced the murder of one of its soldiers.
Turkish fighters from time-to-time launch air raids targeting Shingal district and Makhmour camp in Ninewa, which caused civilian victims, including children, targeting pro-PKK factions.
Early February, Turkey bombed several areas in Shingal, one of which resulted in the complete destruction of one of PMF bases.
"If there are protests against the continued presence of the Turkish military base in the area, then these protests must be conveyed to the Iraqi government," al-Abadi said.
According to the information obtained by KirkukNow, so far no party has taken the case to Parliament which is striving to nominate a president and prime minister following October 10th General Elections and nomination of the spkeaer last January.
The Turkish military base has become a source of fear and anxiety for Ihsan Noun and the people of Bashiqa, who are all the time worried when the next attack by missiles will wake them up.