Turkish forces attack PKK targets in northern Iraq

The defence ministry says Turkey has been carrying out a new air-and-land operation against Kurdish fighters in the region.

Turkish air force F-16 jets shoot down a foreign fighter plane
The Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids against PKK bases in northern Iraq [File: Reuters]

Turkey’s army hit Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq in a new ground-and-air offensive.

Commando forces landed in Iraq’s Metina region from helicopters while fighter jets bombed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets, the defence ministry said on Sunday.

“Heroic commandos of the heroic Turkish Armed Forces are in northern Iraq,” the ministry said in a tweet, without specifying how many soldiers were involved in the operation.

Turkish television showed images of paratroopers jumping from helicopters and camouflaged soldiers firing assault weapons.

In a televised speech, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the operation began on Friday and involved special forces backed by drones and attack helicopters.

The PKK, listed as a “terrorist group” by Turkey and much of the international community, has been using Iraq’s northern mountains as a springboard in its decades-long rebellion against the Turkish state.

The Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air attacks against PKK bases in northern Iraq.

‘Operation Claw-Lightning’

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dubbed the latest offensive Operation Claw-Lightning.

Speaking to the command centre by video link, Erdogan said the offensive was designed “to completely end the presence of the terror threat … along our southern borders”.

“There’s no room for the separatist terror group in the future of Turkey, Iraq or Syria,” Erdogan said in reference to the Kurdish fighters.

“We will keep on fighting until we eradicate these gangs of murderers who cause nothing but tears and destruction.”

In February, Turkey launched the Claw-Eagle 2 operation against PKK rebels holed up in the northern Iraqi region of Dohuk.

That raid created controversy because it was designed in part to rescue 12 Turkish soldiers and an Iraqi held captive by the PKK in a cave.

Turkey accused the PKK of executing the 13 men before they could be freed, and Erdogan came under attack from opposition parties in parliament.

The February raid also created problems in Turkey’s relations with Iran, which now has a strong political and military presence in Iraq, and which treats Erdogan’s regional campaigns with suspicion.

Iran’s ambassador warned in February that Turkish forces should not pose a threat or violate Iraqi soil, prompting Ankara and Tehran to each summon the other’s ambassador.

Clashes between the Turkish army and Kurdish fighters are believed to have killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies