BAGHDAD – The presence of Turkish troops near the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in northern Iraq is a “violation” of international law, Iraq’s president said Saturday.
President Fuad Masum called the move a “violation of international norms, laws and Iraq’s national sovereignty,” and said it was contributing to increased tensions in the region.
Hakim al-Zamili, the head of parliament’s security and defence committee, went a step further, calling on Iraq’s prime minister to launch airstrikes against the Turkish troops if they remained in Iraqi territory.
WATCH:Iraqi troops attempt to retake neighbourhood from Islamic State
Turkey has said a military battalion equipped with armoured vehicles has been in the Bashiqa region close to Mosul in the northern Ninevah province for the last five months as part of a training mission to help forces fighting the Islamic State group. Mosul fell to the extremists in June 2014 amid a stunning collapse of Iraqi security forces.
Plans to try to retake Mosul last spring were sidelined as the extremist group advanced on other fronts.
The founder of the training camp outside Mosul, former Ninevah governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, told The Associated Press that the Turkish trainers were at his base at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi. He said the Turkish forces are training but not arming Sunni fighters.
“They didn’t give us any weapons even though we asked them to,” he said. “We equipped this force from the black market with our own money and we believe they’re the best force to liberate Mosul… These people will be very effective to hold ground because they are from there and there’ll be no resistance to them from local people.”
Sunni fighters in Ninevah and the western Anbar province say the Shiite-dominated government has failed to provide them with the support and weaponry needed to defeat the IS group. The government fears that arming Sunni tribes and militias could backfire. Sunni grievances were a key factor fueling the rise of the IS group, and many Sunnis initially welcomed the extremists as liberators.
The U.S.-led coalition launched 12 airstrikes on IS targets in Iraq on Friday, including two near Mosul targeting tactical units and fighting positions.
Associated Press writers Susannah George in Baghdad and Balint Szlanko in Irbil, Iraq contributed to this report.
©2015The Associated Press