Turkish air raids kill five civilians in northern Iraq

Families flee cross-border offensive as Turkish special forces fight Kurds in the mountains

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 31, 2007 a Turkish army helicopter flies over  mountains in the province of Sirnak, near the Turkish-Iraqi border, south-eastern Turkey. Turkey launched an air and ground offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq on June 17, 2020 in a move likely to increase friction with the Baghdad government. The defence ministry said "commandos"  moved in supported by drones and helicopters, following a bombardment with rocket launchers and artillery guns that hit more than 150 targets. / AFP / MUSTAFA OZER
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The civilian death toll of Turkish air raids in northern Iraq rose to five on Friday, local officials said, as Ankara kept up a cross-border offensive against Turkish Kurdish rebels.

One Turkish soldier also died in northern Iraq on Friday in clashes with fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Turkey's defence ministry said.

Despite official protests from Baghdad, Turkey on Wednesday launched operation "Claw-Tiger" by land and air into the mountainous terrain of northern Iraq where the PKK has bases.

Three civilians were killed on Friday when a Turkish air strike hit their cars, said Ouarchine Mayi, mayor of Chiladzi in Dohuk province, which neighbours Syria and Turkey.

Another local mayor, Serbast Sabri, said the body of a fourth civilian was also found, two days after he had gone missing.

In this photo provided by the Turkish Ministry of Defence on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, Turkish troops in action against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. Turkey says it has airlifted troops for a cross-border ground operation against Turkey's Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. The Defense Ministry in Ankara says the airborne offensive in Iraq’s border region of Haftanin was launched on Wednesday following intense artillery fire into the area. The ministry says commando forces are being supported by warplanes, attack helicopters, artillery and armed and unarmed drones. (Turkish Ministry of Defence via AP)

A shepherd was killed early Thursday morning when Turkish air raids hit the Bradost district, an official from northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Ihsan Chalabi, told AFP.

Turkish special forces have landed by helicopter in Iraqi Kurdistan to flush out PKK guerrillas from hideouts in the region's remote mountains.

Turkey has sporadically bombed PKK bases in the region, but local activists say its dramatic escalation has prompted scores of families in the area to flee.

The PKK, which Ankara brands a "terrorist" organisation because of its decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state, has not reported any casualties so far.

Iraq's foreign ministry has summoned Turkish ambassador Fatih Yildiz twice this week, demanding Ankara withdraw its special forces and halt the bombing campaign.

But Mr Yildiz has been defiant, telling Iraqi authorities that if Baghdad did not take action against the rebels, Ankara would continue to "fight the PKK wherever it is".

Iraq even summoned Iran's envoy in response to cross-border shelling of Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.

Iran, which has its own Kurdish minority, has also been fighting Kurdish rebels who use Iraq as a base.

Saudi Arabia has also condemned the Turkish operations inside northern Iraq.

But there has been no direct comment from Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, who is himself a Kurd and is close to top officials in the autonomous Kurdish region.

The Iraqi Kurdish regional government considers the PKK a rival group but has been unable to uproot it from its mountain hideouts.

It has, however, tolerated the presence of around 10 Turkish military bases inside its territory for the past 25 years.
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