An explosion struck next to the Suleimaniyah International Airport in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region Friday, local officials said.
The blast came days after Turkey closed its airspace to flights to and from the airport, citing an alleged increase in Kurdish militant activity threatening flight safety.
Turkey has spent years fighting Kurdish militants in its east. Large Kurdish communities also live in neighboring Iraq and Syria where they have a degree of self-rule.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based opposition war monitor, and some local media reported that the explosion was a Turkish drone attack on Mazloum Abdi, the leader of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led force in Syria.
Officials with the SDF and the Kurdish regional government in northeast Syria denied that Abdi was in Suleimaniyah at the time or had been the target of an attack.
Fethullah al-Husseini, a representative of the Kurdish self-rule administration in northeast Syria, said Abdi was “carrying on his work and is in northeast Syria.”
The airport’s security directorate said in a statement that an explosion took place near the fence surrounding the airport at 4:18 p.m.