At least three Turkish soldiers were killed on Thursday in northern Iraq after Ankara launched a new military operation against suspected Kurdish rebel targets, the country's defence ministry said.
The ministry said its forces carried out Operation Claw-Eagle 2 against the Kurdish militant group known as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), near Gara Mountain in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Duhok.
"Two soldiers were killed on Wednesday in clashes that broke out in the Gara region during the first day of the military operations. A third solider was died on Thursday of wounds sustained during the clashes," the ministry said.
The operation was launched to "neutralise the PKK and other terrorist elements from northern Iraq" to ensure security along the Turkish-Iraqi border, the ministry said.
PKK fighters have established “shelter places and positions and are preparing for a large-scale attack” in northern Iraq, the ministry said.
Gara Mountain is about 50 kilometres north-east of Duhok.
PKK affiliated Media said on Wednesday that violent clashes broke out between their fighters and the Turkish military in the Gara Mountain.
Last month, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar visited Baghdad and the northern city of Erbil.
“Co-operation and co-ordination against the PKK plays a very important role. We are ready for every possible co-ordination with Iraq,” Mr Akar said during his visit.
Last June, Ankara launched Operation Claw-Tiger in the mountainous terrain of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
It has used warplanes, drones and special forces, and boasted about hitting hundreds of PKK targets, but gave few details.
Turkey has been fighting the Kurdish militant group along its borders with Syria and Iraq for several decades.
It labels the PKK a terrorist organisation because of its insurgency against the Turkish state.
The United States and the European Union also consider the PKK a terror group.
Although Iraq has protested about the Turkish strikes on its land, Ankara continues to carry out air and ground attacks in areas where it believes the group is hiding.