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Iraqi army challenges Turkey's account of 'Islamic State' clashes

Turkey's President Erdogan has said that Turkish forces and a Sunni militia killed 18 IS militants in northern Iraq, a claim the Iraqi military denies. Erdogan also defended the contentious Turkish deployment in Iraq.

The Iraqi military on Friday denied reports that Turkish forces fighting alongside a Sunni militia had clashed with the so-called "Islamic State" militant group in Iraq's Nineveh province.

"The joint operations command denies there was a terrorist attack on the position of Turkish forces in Bashiqa by the terrorist Daesh recently," Iraqi state television reported, referring to the militant group by an Arabic acronym.

It "denies what was relayed in some media outlets from the Turkish president about clashing between the Turkish forces inside Iraqi territory and the terrorist Daesh whether in Bashiqa or any other areas," state TV added.

The statement from the Iraqi military challenges Ankara's account of a lethal engagement with the militant group in northern Iraq, where Turkey deployed a unit of some 150 troops in December to protect a training camp near Bashiqa.

"Eighteen members of the Daesh terror organization who wanted to infiltrate Bashiqa were neutralized," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Friday. "None of our soldiers were wounded."

Erdogan also defended the Turkish deployment in Iraq, which has become a contentious subject between Baghdad and Ankara.

"This incident shows what a correct step it was, the one regarding Bashiqa. It is clear that with our armed soldiers there, our officers giving the training are prepared for anything at any time," the president said.

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Turkish forces have been training an Iraqi Sunni militia at the camp near Bashiqa, founded by former Iraqi governor Atheel al-Nujaifi.

Ankara previously said that there was a "miscommunication" with Iraqi authorities over the deployment. However, Turkey reacted in December by withdrawing some troops to another base located in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.

ls/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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