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Turkish diplomat killed in restaurant shooting in Iraqi Kurdistan

Azad Lashkari, Reuters | Kurdish security officials secure the area around a restaurant where a Turkish diplomat was shot dead in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, July 17, 2019.

At least two people, including a Turkish diplomat, were killed in a shooting Wednesday at a restaurant in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil in a rare attack in the semi-autonomous region that could raise tensions and Turkish ire.

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The Asayish, the Kurdish security and intelligence organisation operating in Iraqi Kurdistan, confirmed the deaths of a Turkish diplomat and a civilian Wednesday. Another civilian was injured, said the statement, which was posted on Twitter.

Kurdish security officials promised a “full investigation” into the attack.

Unidentified gunmen opened fire at a restaurant where Turkish diplomats were dining Wednesday afternoon, according to Kurdish security officials.

Security officials responded to an incident at the HuQQabaz restaurant located in an upscale commercial area on Erbil's main Airport Road, according to the local Rudaw news service.

The area was immediately sealed off and office workers, shoppers and diners were told to avoid the neighbourhood.

A witness told AFP that one attacker entered the restaurant and started shooting before he fled in a car waiting outside.

The victims have not been identified although Ankara has confirmed the killing of “an employee” at its consulate in Erbil.

The shooting came days after Turkey launched “Operation Claw-2” against what Ankara calls “PKK terrorists” in northern Iraq. The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the EU, the US and the UN. Ankara has vowed to destroy PKK bases operating in northern Iraq.

It was not known if Wednesday’s incident was linked to Operation Claw 2.

Turkey vows retaliation

Responding to Wednesday's incident, Turkey vowed to retaliate against the “atrocious attack”.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalim vowed a response against “those who are responsible for this atrocious attack,” in a Twitter post in Turkish.

Turkey has been engaged in military operations in the Kurdish areas of Syria and Iraq, including the Sinjar area and Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq.

While the autonomous Kurdish zone in northern Iraq is relatively secure, Turkish diplomats have been targeted in the broader region in the past. In 2014, the Islamic State (IS) group kidnapped Turkish diplomats in the Iraqi city of Mosul. They were released after more than three months in captivity.

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