Turkey hits PKK targets in Iraq, Syria
ANKARAThe Turkish military has carried out air strikes against the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) militants near Iraq's Sinjar mountains and northeastern Syria to prevent the group from sending weapons and explosives for attacks inside Turkey, it said on April 24.
The two regions have become “terror hubs,” the Turkish military said, with the PKK frequently using these areas to channel militants, weapons, bombs and ammunition into Turkey, according to Ankara.
“To destroy these terror hubs which threaten the security, unity and integrity of our country and our nation and as part of our rights based on international law, air strikes have been carried out … and terrorist targets have been struck with success,” the Turkish army said in a statement.
The air bombardment was carried out around 2 a.m. local time on April 25, it added.
Anadolu Agency said air fleets Korsan (Pirate) and Pars (Leopard) conducted the strike. Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Air Force Commander Abidin Ünal watched the strikes supported by tanker planes at an operation base.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has for months said the PKK has taken a foothold in Sinjar region in Iraq’s northwest, around 115 kilometers from the Turkish border, and that Ankara would not allow the group to expand its activities there.
The strikes in Syria targeted the YPG – the armed wing of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) and a key component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are backed by the United States. The U.S.’ NATO ally and partner in operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkey, sees the PYD and the YPG as terrorists linked to the PKK and calls on international community to cut any ties with these groups.
Salih Müslim, the co-chair of the PYD, called on the anti-ISIL coalition to make a call on Turkey.
“Turkey jets cannot fly there without the permission of the coalition,” Russia’s Sputnik agency quoted him as saying.
The YPG said in a statement its headquarters in Mount Karachok near Malikiya had been hit, including a media center, a local radio station, communications facilities and military institutions.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group which tracks violence using sources on the ground, said at least 18 YPG fighters had been killed in the strikes.
Turkey’s warplanes have regularly bombed the mountainous border area between Iraq and Turkey where PKK militants are based since a ceasefire broke down in July 2015, but it is the first time it has targeted its affiliate in the Sinjar region.
General Seme Bosali, a Kurdish commander in Sinjar, claimed that the air strike had killed five Kurdish peshmerga fighters. It appeared to be a mistake, he said, as the peshmerga forces are not hostile to Turkey.
The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq called on the PKK to withdraw its fighters from Sinjar.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry denounced the strikes as a “violation against Iraq’s sovereignty” and called on the international community to put an end to such “interferences” by Turkey.
“Any operation that is carried out by Turkish government without any coordination with the Iraqi government is totally rejected,” Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Ahmad Jamal, told The Associated Press.
He warned against a Turkish military operation in northern Iraq, saying it won’t “bring a solution, but will instead complicate the issue and destabilize northern Iraq.”