Erdogan says senior Kurdish official killed in Turkish operation in Iraq

Selman Bozkir, alias Doctor Huseyin, was the PKK chief at a Kurdish refugee camp

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a statement after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Turkey, May 17, 2021. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

A senior official from Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was killed in a Turkish intelligence operation in Iraq, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday.

Mr Erdogan accuses the PKK of using the mountainous area in Iraq's north as a springboard for its insurgency against the Turkish state.

He said Selman Bozkir, also known as Doctor Huseyin, was the PKK chief in Makhmur, a Kurdish refugee camp in northern Iraq.

"We will not allow the gruesome separatist organisation to use Makhmur as an incubator for terrorism," Mr Erdogan wrote on Twitter.

"We will continue to exterminate terrorism at its source," he said.

The presidency's communications director Fahrettin Altun said that "all terrorists will end up" like Bozkir.

Set up by the United Nations at the end of the 1990s to host Turkish Kurds, the Makhmur camp was hit on Saturday by a Turkish drone strike that left three civilians dead, a Kurdish official from the camp told AFP.

Ankara regularly accuses the PKK of running the Makhmur camp, which is 250 kilometres south of the Turkish border.

Turkey regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids on PKK rear bases in Iraq – moves that have strained relations between the two neighbours – launching its latest offensive in April.

Last week, Mr Erdogan likened Makhmur camp to the Mount Qandil region along Iraq's eastern frontier, where the PKK has bases.

"If the United Nations does not clean up this district, we will take care of it in our capacity as a UN member state," he said.

Turkish troops have maintained a network of bases in northern Iraq since the mid-1990s on the basis of security agreements struck with the government of late dictator Saddam Hussein.

The PKK has waged a rebellion in the mainly Kurdish south-east of Turkey since 1984 that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.