A Turkish nationalist group has claimed responsibility for the devastating fire at Erbil’s Qaysari Bazaar, which destroyed over 370 shops and injured more than 100, framing it as an act of historical reclamation.

A significant blaze at Erbil’s Qaysari Bazaar on Sunday evening resulted in the destruction of over 370 shops and injuries to more than 100 individuals, with a Turkish nationalist group claiming the attack as a campaign to reclaim what they assert as historically Turkish land.

The group’s provocative statement on Monday articulated their demands: “On the evening of 5 May, our brave warriors carried out sabotage operations at 22 different points in Erbil’s Qaysari Bazaar, reducing 450 shops to ashes. Either the glorious Turkish flag will forever wave over Erbil Castle, or it will not end until we say it ends.”

The Erbil governor’s office on Monday reported that the blaze resulted in injuries to more than 100 individuals and confirmed the formation of an investigative committee to probe the circumstances surrounding the fire.

This is not the first time this group has targeted the bazaar. A previous statement claimed a similar attack on 8 April 2024, indicating an ongoing campaign against the Kurdish administration. “We will continue our operations until the Turkish flag waves over Erbil Castle,” the group warned, following their earlier sabotage efforts.

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, responding to the latest fire, expressed solidarity with the affected shop owners and detailed the emergency response:

“I spoke with Omed Khoshnaw, the governor of Erbil, and he assured me that the firefighting teams are exerting all efforts to control the fire at Erbil’s grand bazaar. We commend the first responders for their bravery and will continue to monitor the situation.”

The losses from the fire are substantial, with one shop owner estimating losses at around $20,000. This event marks another significant challenge in a region already grappling with safety and security issues attributed to sub-par safety standards and frequent electrical faults.

The group articulates a vision of historical entitlement on Kurdish areas, with claims over Kirkuk being particularly emphasised as an “inherent part of Turkish land.” Their statements have included threats and assertions such as, “Kirkuk is Turkish and those claiming rights over it will face the wrath of Turks.” KRG officials have yet to publicly address or investigate these claims.