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Turkey accused of chemical attack on refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan

TURKEY was accused today of using chemical weapons in Monday’s bombing of Maxmur refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, amid calls for an international investigation.

Some 80 other sites were also targeted, including Sengal refugee camp and alleged Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) positions in the Qandil mountains.

The attacks mark a major new offensive against the PKK by the Turkish state under the codename Operation Claw Eagle.

Further airstrikes were launched on Wednesday, with Turkish special forces thought to be making incursions into northern Iraq.

Earlier this week the Arab League's secretary-general, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, described Turkey’s latest offensive as “a cause for concern.”

“The strikes represent an attack on Iraqi sovereignty and are taking place without co-ordination with the government in Baghdad,” he said, warning that Ankara was violating international law.

New footage of Monday’s attack appeared on the ANF news agency website, which appears to show one of the missiles hitting a rocky area and exploding with a massive flame which burned for hours.

Residents of the Maxmur camp reported a smell of apples, bringing back memories of the gas attack on Kurds in Halabja by Saddam Hussein during the 1988 al-Anfal campign, in which 4,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed and up to 100,000 killed.

Local officials demanded an urgent international investigation into the alleged chemical attack.

The camp is home to around 15,000 people, mainly Kurds who fled from Turkey during operations in the 1990s which saw more than 3,000 villages burned to the ground by state forces in a bid at forced assimilation.

It is run with the assistance of the UNHCR, which was contacted for comment by the Morning Star today. The refugee-aid body had not responded by the time the Star went to print.

Earlier this week Maxmur People’s Assembly co-chairs Cicek Cengiz and Haci Kacan told the Star that the UNHCR had remained silent over the attacks and had failed to speak out or take any action against a year-long embargo imposed by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Turkey has a long history of chemical-weapons attacks.

In 1938, during the Dersim Massacre, Sabiha Gokcen, the adopted daughter of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was among the pilots who dropped chemical bombs onto the Kurdish population.

In 2011 President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed claims that chemicals had been used against PKK fighters killed in air attacks in Kazan Valley as “slander.”

German magazine Der Spiegel claimed experts who saw photographs of scorched bodies from a similar 2009 air strike concluded it was “highly probable” that chemical substances were used in the attack.

In February 2018 officials refused to investigate claims that gas had been used in Afrin during Operation Olive Branch.

And in October 2019 the Organisaton for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did a u-turn and said investigations over the alleged use of white phosphorus in Seri Kaniye were beyond its remit, days after receiving a £30,000 donation from Turkey.

The OPCW was contacted for comment.

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