Turkish fighter jets have bombed military positions of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in neighbouring Iraq.
The air raids came just hours after Turkish planes pounded Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in Syria on Friday morning, marking a significant shift in Ankara’s position on how to deal with armed groups in Syria and Iraq.
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“Strikes were carried out on targets of the Daesh [ISIL] terror group in Syria and the PKK terror group in northern Iraq,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, adding that shelters and warehouses containing PKK weapons were hit in the northern Iraq operation.
The planes took off from their base in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir to carry out the strikes against ISIL and the PKK and all returned safely to base early on Saturday, the official Anatolia news agency reported.
PKK spokesman Bakhtiar Dogan said the strikes targeted mountain positions in the north of Dohuk province, which is part of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
“At around 11:00pm [20:00 GMT] tonight, Turkish warplanes started bombing our positions near the border, accompanied by heavy artillery shelling,” Dogan told the AFP news agency.
The PKK, which is banned in Turkey and has long had a presence in Iraq, has several training camps in Dohuk, a province that also borders Kurdish areas of Syria.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Kilis on the Turkey-Syria border, said that it remains unclear if the Turkish jets flew through either Iraqi or Syrian airspace.
“Turkey’s government maintained that Friday morning’s bombing raids on ISIL targets in Syria were carried out from Turkish airspace,” he said, adding that local Turkish media were reporting that jets flew towards both Syria and Iraq on Friday night.
The military action by Ankara, which has been accused of colluding with ISIL, was seen as a potential game changer in the war against the armed group.
But the Turkish government had also vowed to take action against the PKK, which has claimed attacks on security forces in the last days.
Turkey also approved the full use of its airbases by the US-led coalition against ISIL, according to the foreign ministry, marking a major change in its policy following a suicide bomb attack in Suruc, bordering Syria.
“The cabinet of ministers has given approval for the stationing in our country’s bases of manned and unmanned aircraft of the US and other coalition countries … taking part in air operations against Islamic State,” the foreign ministry said, adding that Turkey’s own aircraft would also be deployed.
The ability to fly manned bombing raids out of Incirlik, a major base used by both US and Turkish forces, against targets in nearby Syria could be a big advantage.
In the first hours of Friday, three F-16 fighter jets bombed three ISIL targets from an airbase in Diyabakir.
Meanwhile, Turkish police raided more than 100 suspected ISIL, Kurdish and leftist armed group locations across the country in overnight operations late on Thursday.
In total, similar operations were carried out in 13 provinces, resulting in 251 detentions, according to the coordination centre of the Turkish prime ministry.