Turkish security forces kill PKK militant in Iraq operation

No immediate confirmation from rebel group of high-ranking Kurdish militant's affiliation

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a statement after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey, May 17, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
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Turkish security forces killed an alleged high-ranking Kurdish militant in an operation in northern Iraq, Turkey's president said on Monday.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a Cabinet meeting that the slain militant was allegedly responsible for the Syria operations of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. He identified him by his codename, Sofi Nurettin, and said he was a Syrian citizen.

“The PKK [official] responsible for Syria … was rendered ineffective in an operation in Iraq that was conducted as a result of the long-term work of our National Intelligence Directorate,” Mr Erdogan said.

“This terrorist led the armed wing of this organisation for a long time before becoming the head of its activities in Syria.”

There was no immediate confirmation from the Kurdish rebel group.

Mr Erdogan said Nurettin was responsible for numerous “bloody acts” against Turkey, as well as attacks against Turkish troops during cross-border offensives in northern Syria.

The Turkish president said the militant was among the commanders who had ordered the killing of 13 Turkish hostages, including military and police, who were executed by militants in northern Iraq during a failed operation to free them this year. The hostages were kidnapped in Turkey in 2015 and 2016.

Turkey has carried out numerous cross-border incursions into Iraq over the years to fight the PKK, which maintains bases in the region.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed since the PKK began an insurgency in Turkey’s majority Kurdish south-east region in 1984.

The PKK is designated a terrorist organisation by the US and the European Union.