Turkey strikes PKK targets in northern Iraq and Syria, causing casualties

Turkish forces routinely conduct military operations against PKK hideouts in the region

A Turkish F-16 fighter jet approaches the tarmac of Incirlik airbase in the southern Turkish city of Adana July 4, 2012. Turkey's armed forces command said on Wednesday it had found the bodies of both pilots of an F-4 jet shot down by Syria last month and was trying to retrieve them from the seabed. Relations between Ankara and Damascus hit a new low after Syria shot down the Turkish reconnaissance plane over the Mediterranean on June 22, prompting a sharp rebuke from Turkey, which said it would respond "decisively". REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY)
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Turkey has carried out air strikes in northern Iraq against rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) positions, causing casualties.

Military aircraft bombed six PKK positions in the Karjokh mountains on Tuesday, the Kurdish counter-terrorism service said.

Turkish warplanes targeted several positions of the Kurdistan Workers' Party fighters,” the counter-terrorism services said, according to an AFP report. It said the planes hit targets in the Makhmur and Sinjar regions.

It also referred to strikes on two positions in the Sinjar mountains and an adjacent area in neighbouring Syria, as well as two raids in the Shila area near Iraq's border with Syria.

“According to reports, the bombings caused human and material losses,” the counter-terrorism service said, without specifying the number of dead or wounded.

The Turkish defence ministry confirmed the raids and said all planes taking part in the operation, which focused on the areas of Derik, Sincar and Karacak, subsequently returned to their bases. It did not provide any information on casualties resulting from the strikes.

“Terrorists' shelters, caves, tunnels, ammunition depots and so-called headquarters and training camps were targeted,” the ministry said, according to a Reuters report. The ministry did not specify exactly when the strikes occurred.

It said the air operation focused on the PKK, which has bases in Iraq, as well as the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, both of which Turkey regards as terrorist groups.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has threatened to “clean up” parts of northern Iraq, accuses the PKK of using the mountainous border area as a springboard for its insurgency inside Turkey.

Turkish forces routinely conduct strikes against PKK hideouts in the area and this has strained relations with the Iraqi government.

In December, the Turkish defence ministry said three of its soldiers died in a PKK attack in northern Iraq, prompting a retaliatory air strike at the time.

Turkey launched its latest major air and ground offensive in April last year, striking rear bases that Kurdish militants have used to wage their decades-long insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Turkey also has military presence in neighbouring Syria, where it has seized large areas of territory in successive operations since 2016 that have mostly focused on another Kurdish-led group.

A two-year ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK broke down in July 2015. Since then clashes have escalated, including Turkish air force strikes against PKK bases in northern Iraq.

The group has claimed responsibility for multiple terrorist bombings aimed at Turkish cities and towns, including the capital Ankara.

Last July, two Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes with PKK fighters, according to the Turkish Defence Ministry.

The Turkish government has also clamped down on the opposition Kurdish HDP (People's Democratic Party), which won 59 seats in the 550-seat Turkish parliament in 2015. The government claims the HDP supports the PKK.

The EU and US have also designated the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

The PKK launched an armed struggle against the Turkish state in 1984, in a push for Kurdish independence. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, figures compiled by international rights groups show.

Updated: February 02, 2022, 9:58 AM