Turkey launches air attacks against Kurdish rebels in Iraq and Syria

Defence ministry says 29 locations hit after attack on Turkish military base in Iraq killed nine Turkish soldiers.

A Turkish F-16 fighter jet takes off from Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, Turkey, July 27, 2015
A Turkish F-16 fighter jet takes off from Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, Turkey [File: Murad Sezer/Reuters]

Turkey has bombed multiple locations allegedly linked to Kurdish groups in Syria and northern Iraq in retaliation for the deaths of nine Turkish soldiers in Iraq, the defence ministry said.

The raids on Saturday came one day after an attack on a Turkish military base in Iraq resulted in the soldiers’ deaths.

The ministry said the attacks targeted 29 locations – including “caves, bunkers, shelters and oil installations” belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish group which has been a central element in the United States-allied coalition against ISIS (ISIL).

Turkey frequently carries out attacks against locations in Syria and Iraq that it suspects to be associated with the PKK.

The Kurdish separatist group, which is banned in Turkey, is considered a “terror” organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

The defence ministry said fighter jets struck targets in Metina, Hakurk, Gara and Qandil in northern Iraq, but did not specify which areas in Syria. It said the aim was “to eliminate terrorist attacks against our people and security forces … and to ensure our border security”.

The statement said that “many” armed fighters were “neutralised” in the attacks, a term Turkey uses to refer to killed or captured fighters.

On Friday night, attackers attempted to infiltrate a military base in northern Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region, killing five soldiers. Another four died later of critical injuries. The ministry said 15 fighters were also killed.

There was no immediate comment from the PKK, the government in Baghdad or the administration in the region.

Turkey launched Operation Claw-Lock in northern Iraq in April 2022, during which it established several bases in the Duhok governorate. Iraq has repeatedly protested against the presence of Turkish troops and called for their withdrawal.

“We will fight to the end against the PKK terrorist organisation within and outside our borders,” Turkey’s foreign minister Hakan Fidan posted on X.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was to hold a security meeting in Istanbul later on Saturday, said his communications director Fahrettin Altun.

Also on Saturday, 113 people were arrested for suspected links with the PKK in nationwide raids, interior minister Ali Yerlikaya said on X.

Continuing fighting

Three weeks ago, PKK-affiliated fighters tried to break into a Turkish base in northern Iraq, according to Turkish officials, killing six soldiers. The following day, six more Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes.

Turkey retaliated by launching attacks against sites that officials said were associated with the PKK in Iraq and Syria. Defence minister Yasar Guler said at the time that dozens of Kurdish fighters were killed in air strikes and land assaults.

It was not immediately clear if Friday night’s attack and the one three weeks earlier targeted the same base.

More than 40,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict between the PKK – which maintains bases in northern Iraq – and the Turkish state since 1984.

Turkey and the US, however, disagree on the status of the Syrian Kurdish groups.

Source: News Agencies