Iraqi armed forces deny Turkey’s involvement in Mosul offensive
Iraqi forces gather in the area of al-Shourah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance towards the city to retake it from the Islamic State on Monday. (AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)
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The Iraqi military Monday denied that Turkish forces were participating "in any manner" in the campaign to recapture the northern city of Mosul from the so-called 'Islamic State' extremist group.
The brief statement from the Military Information Unit of the Iraqi armed forces came after Turkish state news agency Anadolu quoted Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Sunday saying that Turkish troops were backing Kurdish Peshmerga forces at their request.
The possible involvement of Turkish forces in the campaign, being waged by an alliance of Iraqi military and police, Peshmerga, Shia militias and local Sunni and minority fighters, has been the subject of a war of words between Turkish and Iraqi leaders.
Earlier on Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that there would be no Turkish involvement and that Iraqi forces - backed by US-led airstrikes - were capable of liberating Mosul themselves.
Yildirim told members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Afyonkarahisar, western Turkey, that Turkish artillery and tank fire were supporting Peshmerga fighters in the Islamic State-held town of Bashiqa.
The Peshmerga said they had surrounded the town on Sunday as part of the operation to free Mosul.
Turkey, which is on good terms with the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, has maintained a base in Kurdish-controlled territory near Bashiqa, north-east of Mosul, despite repeated demands from Baghdad for it to withdraw.
Yildirim said of Turkey's military involvement in Iraq and Syria, where it is fighting both Daesh and Kurdish forces, that it would not seek permission to fight extremism "both inside and outside the country."