Turkey launches air strikes against Kurdish militants after nine soldiers are killed

Air operations were carried out in Iraq and Syria

Turkey responded to the killing of nine of its troops by a force it suspected to be Kurdish by bombing from the air. Photo: Getty Images)
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Turkey attacked nearly 30 “terrorist targets” in northern Iraq and Syria on Friday night into Saturday after nine of its soldiers were killed in an exchange of fire with what Ankara said were Kurdish forces.

The soldiers were killed during clashes that followed an attempted intrusion at a base near the northern Iraqi city of Metina, the Turkish Defence Ministry said.

The assailants were presumed to be members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), private Turkish channel NTV reported.

On Friday night, there was an attempted infiltration of a military base in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region that killed five soldiers. Four others died later of injuries. The Turkish Defence Ministry said 15 militants were also killed.

“Air operations were carried out on terrorist targets in the regions of Metina, Hakurk, Gara and Qandil,” the ministry said in a statement. It did not specify areas in Syria.

The ministry said the strikes had targeted 29 locations including “caves, bunkers, shelters and oil installations” belonging to the PKK and the YPG (People's Protection Units), a Syrian Kurdish militia which is a central element of US-allied forces in a coalition against ISIS.

The ministry's statement added “many” militants were “neutralised” in the strikes.

In the past 25 years, Turkey installed several dozen military bases in Iraqi Kurdistan to fight the PKK, which also has rear bases in the area.

One hundred and thirteen people were arrested for suspected links with the PKK in nationwide raids on Saturday, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on X.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan expressed his condolences for the deaths of the Turkish soldiers on X.

“We will fight to the end against the PKK terrorist organisation within and outside our borders,” he wrote.

Twelve Turkish soldiers were killed in late December in two separate attacks on Turkish military bases in northern Iraq.

Turkey, the US and the EU have designated the PKK a terrorist organisation.

However, the US supports the Syrian Democratic Forces YPG in their fight against ISIS, but Turkey views the group that dominate the SDF as an offshoot of the PKK.

The PKK has been locked in a decades-long conflict with Ankara over Kurdish autonomy.

Updated: January 13, 2024, 10:38 AM