Erdoğan vows to ‘smash all terror camps’ in Iraq and Syria
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to “smash all terrorist camps” in both Iraq and Syria that pose a threat to Turkey, one day after the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) killed eight Turkish troops in an ambush on the Turkish-Iraqi border.
“I once again declare: There is nothing more important than the survival of our country. We must stop terror organizations that are being fed, trained and armed outside of our borders, at the cost of the life and blood of our soldiers. It’s our right to breathe down the necks of terrorists wherever they are,” Erdoğan said at a rally in the Aegean town of Manisa on Oct. 3.
“Many places in Syria and Iraq are like terrorist homes right now. We have to destroy any threats to our country that come from these places at their root, not just within our territory. We do not have to ask permission from anybody,” he added
Eight troops were killed on Nov. 2 in the Şemdinli district of the southeastern province of Hakkari while trying to the stop the infiltration of PKK militants from northern Iraq into Turkey, while one police officer was shot dead during an operation in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on the same day. In response, the Turkish army launched a massive operation along the Iraqi border, in which it said it killed 55 PKK militants.
“Our operations are continuing with drones, armed drones, and F-16s. They will be given a huge blow. The death toll [of terrorists] will increase,” Erdoğan said.
He also referred to the fact that Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu were in Hakkari to carry out investigations after the incident.
Erdoğan noted that PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have bases and camps in both Iraq and Syria. “But it should be well known that we will smash any terror camp that we locate in Iraq and Syria. We may pursue an operation at any moment, as we successfully did so in Jarablus and al-Bab, and as we are doing again in Idlib,” he said.
“No legal state can keep its troops together with terrorists. For us, anyone who sides with a terrorist is themselves a terrorist. This is our last word to those who think they are playing with us by talking about an ‘alliance,’ a ‘strategic partnership,’ or an ‘allied relationship,” Erdoğan also said, in direct reference to the U.S.’s military cooperation with the YPG.
Turkey last year staged its Euphrates Shied Operation inside Syria to clear its border of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to block the YPG from merging its Afrin canton with Rojava. The PKK has its main headquarters in the Kandil Mountain in northern Iraq and has been working to expand its influence to the country’s Sinjar province.
“We are determined to drain all the terror swamps outside our borders … If the problem in Kandil and Sinjar cannot be solved by the sovereign country [Iraq] then we will demolish these places ourselves,” Erdoğan said.
“We have the right to pursue any kind of operation from air or land in order to smash any kind of terrorist formation across our 911-kilometer border with Syria,” he added.
In a speech earlier on the same day, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also vowed to “eliminate all terror organizations,” including the PKK, the PYD and the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, believed to have been behind Turkey’s July 2016 coup attempt.