Turkey carried out an operation in the Sinjar area of northern Iraq, which the armed forces said killed a Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said on Wednesday, August 15 that it carried out a joint operation with the Turkish National Intelligence Organization, (Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı, or MIT) in Sinjar. The operation neutralized “İsmail Özden, codenamed Mam Zeki Sengali,” the PKK “executive council member” responsible for northern Iraq, TSK tweeted.
Khal Ali, an official with the Hashd al-Shaabi militias and former Sinjar Resistance Units (Yekîneyên Berxwedana Şengalê) commander, told Rudaw that Shingali had been killed. Ali added that four other YBS fighters were killed, and YBS general commander Heval Mazlum was wounded.
The Yazidi-led YBS is closely linked to the PKK, which has waged an armed insurgency in Turkey for decades. Wednesday was the 34th anniversary of the PKK’s first sustained campaign in Turkey.
Update, August 16:
On Thursday, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) confirmed Shingali’s death. In a statement, the KCK Executive Council Co-Presidency said Shingali was a member of the executive council and “comrade and a cadre and militant of our freedom movement for 35 years.”
The co-presidency condemned Turkey’s actions as “a genocidal attack against Yazidis” and “a continuation of the Yazidi genocide of August 3  by ISIS” and called for the closure of Shingal’s airspace to Turkish aircraft.
KCK is an umbrella group for Kurdish political parties that subscribe to the ideology of PKK leader Abulldah Ocalan, including the PKK, Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party (PCDK) in Iraq, and Iran’s Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK).
Matthew Barber, former executive director of the Yazidi diaspora organization Yazda, denied that Shingali was a militant: “He was a civilian and a leadership figure in the political wing of the PKK,” Barber said on Wednesday.
Barber credited Shingali for overseeing humanitarian aid distribution to Sinjar Yazidis after the ISIS attack.
The Free Yezidi Foundation, a non-governmental organization based in the Netherlands, said in a statement Wednesday it was “appalled” by the Turkish airstrikes. The foundation said it was informed by YBS forces in Sinjar that a YBS vehicle and checkpoint were hit by airstrikes, claiming the group was targeted in the attack.
Ezidi Press reported that three YBS vehicles were hit, with several people killed and injured.
Sinjar Peshmerga commander Qasim Shasho told Rudaw a convoy of four YBS vehicles returning from a commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the Islamic State massacre of Yazidis in Kocho was targeted in the Sikne area near Snune, a Yazidi town.
Sinjar, or Shingal, is the Yazidi heartland, and the ISIS attack in 2014 was widely condemned as a genocide.
The Free Yezidi Foundation called on the military Coalition against ISIS, of which Turkey is a member, “to immediately stop all aggressive airstrikes in Shingal.”
Update, August 16:
A spokesperson for CJTF-OIR said on Thursday: “We are aware that Turkish aircraft carried out strikes in the Sinjar area.”
“Turkey alerted the Coalition of their intentions to strike in the Sinjar area, but did not give any further targeting information,” a spokesperson told The Defense Post.
The PKK is headquartered in Iraq’s Qandil mountain area. On Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would stop Qandil from being a “nest of terror,” and that Sinjar could be included in this process, Reuters reported.
The PKK said it withdrew its forces from Sinjar in March and handed control to the Iraqi military.
In June, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkish forces “have now been positioned some 30 km into northern Iraq, working to prevent infiltrations and terror activities there,” and could advance on Qandil.
“We will show no hesitation here until these elements are neutralized,” he said.
Erdogan in March vowed to expand Turkey’s campaign in Syria to other Kurdish-held territory as far as the Iraq border in the east, and again threatened a military operation against Sinjar.
Turkey carried out a series of air raids in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria in April 2017. The Peshmerga deputy commander in Sinjar, Brigadier General Sme, told NRT that a Peshmerga headquarters was targeted and four Peshmerga and one Asayish member were killed.
Bryan Bowman and Fergus Kelly contributed reporting.
This story was updated on August 16, 2018 at 1215 GMT with a KCK statement and details about Shingali’s actions in Sinjar and again at 1335 with information from the Coalition.