ISTANBUL/ANKARA A number of hundred Turkish soldiers have been deployed to give instruction for Iraqi troops in an area close to the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which is beneath Islamic State control, a Turkish security source told Reuters on Friday.
Islamic State militants overran Mosul, a city of more than one million men and women, in June 2014, but a much anticipated counter-offensive by Iraqi forces has been repeatedly postponed because they are involved in fighting elsewhere.
“Turkish soldiers have reached the Mosul Bashiqa region. They are there as element of routine education workout routines. One battalion has crossed into the area,” the source said, declining to say precisely how many soldiers had been deployed.
He said troops had already been in Iraqi Kurdistan and had moved to Mosul accompanied by armored autos, in a move which coalition countries targeting Islamic State were aware of.
Video released on the site of Turkey’s pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper showed flatbed trucks carrying armored automobiles along a road at evening, describing them as a convoy accompanying the Turkish troops to Bashiqa.
A statement from the Iraqi prime minister’s media workplace confirmed that Turkish troops numbering “about one armed battalion with a quantity of tanks and cannons” had entered its territory close to Mosul with no request or permission from Baghdad authorities. It referred to as on the forces to leave right away.
In a separate statement flashed on state Tv, the Iraqi foreign ministry known as the Turkish activity “an incursion” and rejected any military operation that was not coordinated with the federal government.
A senior Kurdish military officer based on the Bashiqa front line, north of Mosul, said further Turkish trainers had arrived at a camp in the region overnight on Thursday escorted by a Turkish protection force.
He said he was not aware of the size of the force and refused to speculate.
The camp is employed by a force known as Hashid Watani (national mobilization), which is created up of primarily Sunni Arab former Iraqi police and volunteers from Mosul.
It was formed by former governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, who is close to Turkey. There was currently a modest number of Turkish trainers there before this most current deployment
“Our soldiers are currently in Iraq. A battalion of soldiers has gone there. Instruction was currently becoming offered in that region for the final two to 3 years. This is a portion of that education,” 1 senior Turkish official stated.
In Washington, two U.S. defense officials mentioned on Friday that the United States was aware of Turkey’s deployment of hundreds of Turkish soldiers to northern Iraq but that the move is not component of the U.S.-led coalition’s activities.
An additional senior Turkish official stated the soldiers in the area had been there to train Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
Turkey has close relations with the Kurdish autonomous zone of northern Iraq, although it views Syrian Kurdish groups across the border as hostile to its interests.
“This is component of the fight against Daesh (Islamic State),” he said, adding that there were around 20 armored vehicles accompanying them as protection.
Islamic State occupies swathes of Iraq and Syria, profiting from disunity among groups opposing it.
On Tuesday, the United States mentioned it was deploying a new force of special operations troops to Iraq to conduct raids against Islamic State there and in neighboring Syria, ratcheting up its campaign against the group.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office has said it welcomed foreign assistance but Iraq’s government would need to have to approve any deployment of unique operations forces anywhere in Iraq.
Abadi reiterated that foreign ground combat troops have been not necessary in Iraq. Potent Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim armed groups have pledged to fight any deployment of U.S. forces to the country. It was unclear how they viewed the presence of Turkish soldiers.
(Further reporting by Isabel Coles in Erbil, Stephen Kalin in Baghdad, Ahmed Tolba in Cairo and Phil Stewart in Washington Writing by Daren Butler Editing by Ralph Boulton and James Dalgleish)