A brazen daylight assassination raid by unknown attackers on a restaurant in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil has left at least one Turkish diplomat dead and two others injured. "They were shot at point blank range by unknown assailants," one eyewitness described of the afternoon attack which local security sources described as a "serious" and developing situation.
Despite global headlines initially identifying three diplomats killed, Turkey's Foreign Ministry confirmed "One personnel of the Erbil embassy was killed in an armed attack today afternoon as he was outside the embassy building." However, it appears multiple diplomatic personnel were shot, with one Iraqi bystander possibly killed. The shooting comes during an uptick in Turkey's highly controversial cross-border operations against the PKK in northern Iraq.
Iraq's Irbil is the seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which Turkey has historically had very tense relations with as it's long attempted to root out the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Ankara has in the past accused Iraq and Syria of harboring Kurdish "terrorists" at war with the Turkish state across its border.
Since 2018 and multiple times before, notably in 2008, Turkey's armed forces have been embroiled in military offensives in northern Iraq, which both the KRG and the federal government in Baghdad have condemned as illegal incursions and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
Conflicting reports suggest more may have died, given at least three were shot by "unknown assailants" per Al Jazeera:
Security sources earlier told Al Jazeera that at least three Turkish security personnel were killed in Wednesday's attack. Among those reported killed on Wednesday was the Turkish deputy council-general.
Al Jazeera's Osama Bin Javaid, citing security sources, said the incident took place in the upscale neighbourhood of Ankawa.
"They were shot at point blank range by unknown assailants," he told, reporting from Iraq's capital, Baghdad.
The area of the shooting is being described as among "the safest in the city" according to reports.
And further, one well-known US war correspondent has pointed out the restaurant is located directly across from the US consulate in the city.
#BREAKING— EHA News (@eha_news) July 17, 2019
A restaurant with #Turkish embassy personnel inside in #Iraq's #Erbil was attacked, leaving one personnel dead.
It was reported that #Turkey's Ambassador Hakan Karaçay was not at the scene during the attack. pic.twitter.com/ytBhP9oBaU
The group of Turkish diplomats had been dining at the restaurant when the attack to place, however, top Turkish diplomat in Erbil Hakan Karaçay was not present. The AFP reported the Turkish vice consul as being among the dead.
Local media reports the area is in lock down as KRG police attempt to track and root out the suspected assassins.
Recent weeks have witnessed an uptick in Turkey's highly controversial cross-border operations against the PKK in the Hakurk region of northern Iraq. Likely the gunmen belonged to the PKK or another Kurdish militant movement angered by recent Turkish aggression in the region.