Turkey has launched a new air and ground offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, defence minister Hulusi Akar said.
Commando units and special forces, backed by unmanned aerial vehicles and attack helicopters involved in Operation Claw-Lock, are targeting Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) hideouts in the Metina, Zap and Avashin-Basyan regions of northern Iraq, Akar said on Monday.
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He would not say how many troops were involved in the operation.
The defence ministry said the operation, which started Sunday night, came after it was found that the PKK was planning a large-scale attack against Turkey. The operation’s planning had been reported in the Turkish media for weeks.
It was launched two days after a rare visit to Turkey by the prime minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, Masrour Barzani, suggesting that he had been briefed on Ankara’s plans.
Barzani said after his talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he welcomed “expanding cooperation to promote security and stability” in northern Iraq.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has an uneasy relationship with the PKK group, whose presence complicates the region’s lucrative trade ties with Turkey.
Turkey routinely carries out attacks in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, where the PKK has bases and training camps in Sinjar and on the mountainous border with Turkey. The latest come on the heels of Operations Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle launched by Turkey in northern Iraq in 2020.
But the offensives have strained Ankara’s ties with Iraq’s central government in Baghdad, which accuses Turkey of failing to respect the country’s territorial integrity. Iraq is yet to comment on the latest operation.
There was no immediate statement from the PKK.
Designated as a “terrorist” group by Ankara and its Western allies, the PKK has been waging a rebellion against the Turkish state since 1984.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed since then.