Turkish Embassy in Baghdad attacked amid rising tensions

The Turkish embassy's flag flies next to holes punched into a wall in one of about a dozen rocket attacks launched by guerillas in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad December 25, 2003. (Photo: Reuters)

January 18, 2012, Wednesday/ 14:02:00

Three rockets were fired at the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad, with one hitting the embassy's exterior wall, the Turkish envoy to Baghdad has said. Turkish Ambassador to Iraq Yunus Demirer told the Anatolia news agency on Wednesday they have not yet been able to determine where the other two rockets hit.

The attack comes amidst a deepening political crisis between Turkey and Iraq. On Monday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, Abdulemir Kamil Abi-Tabikh, to its headquarters in Ankara to inform him of Turkey's unease over recent Iraqi criticism, just a day after Iraq made a similar move regarding Turkey through Turkey's ambassador to Baghdad. Abi-Tabikh was summoned to the Foreign Ministry by the ministry's undersecretary, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, regarding Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's verbal assault on Turkey for what he characterized as interference in Iraqi affairs.

Maliki’s verbal attack on Turkey came last week after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged him to reduce tensions in the war-torn country, regarding a series of bombings in Baghdad. Erdoğan spoke to Maliki on the phone and said his actions are moving Iraq away from democracy, referring to an arrest warrant last month for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Turkey has been trying to play a mediator role in Iraq between the rival Shiite and Sunni sects in the government.

In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement and strongly condemned the attack, demanding Iraqi authorities to bring perpetrators of this attack before justice and taking necessary security measures to prevent any similar attacks in the future.

The statement said Turkey “reminded Iraq that security of diplomatic missions belongs to a host country.”

Meanwhile, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Finance Minister Rafi Isavi called Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Wednesday to express their grief. Diplomatic sources said Zebari assured Davutoğlu that the incident will be investigated and every kind of measure will be taken, state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

“Your diplomats are at home [in Iraq],” Zebari reportedly told Davutoğlu.

Large-scale sectarian fighting pushed the country to the verge of civil war in 2006-2007. Well-armed Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias continue to operate in the country, while suicide bombings are becoming increasingly frequent in the country.

The increase in violence comes as Iraq’s leaders remain locked in a political crisis that is stoking tensions between the Shiite majority now in power and the country’s Sunnis, who benefited most from ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s rule.

An apparently coordinated wave of bombings targeting Shiite Muslims killed at least 78 people in Iraq on Dec. 5, the second large-scale assault launched by militants since US forces pulled out last month. The attacks, which bore the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents, came in the days leading up to a Shiite holy day that draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across Iraq, raising fears of further sectarian bloodshed.

The leaders of Iraq’s rival sects have been locked in a standoff since last month, when the Shiite-dominated government called for Hashemi’s arrest on terrorism charges, just as the last American troops were completing their withdrawal from the country. Hashemi, Iraq’s highest-ranking Sunni politician, remains holed up in the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north, out of reach of state security forces. During his phone conversation with US President Barack Obama on Dec. 13, Erdoğan also talked about the latest situation in Iraq, and the two leaders agreed that a broad-based and inclusive government is necessary for stability in the country.