Turkish military launches large air campaign on PKK targets in northern Iraq

Turkish military launches large air campaign on PKK targets in northern Iraq

Uğur Ergan - ANKARA
Turkish military launches large air campaign on PKK targets in northern Iraq

The Turkish military has launched a wide-scale air campaign against outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq.

The operation started on Feb. 3 and continued on Feb. 4, military sources have told Hürriyet.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, planes and AWACS surveillance jets accompanied Turkish Air Force F-4E and F-16 jets during strikes on the PKK targets in the neighboring country, the sources said.

Some 40 jets that took off from bases in Diyarbakır, Malatya, Bandırma, Ankara-Akıncı and Merzifon hit some 100 targets on Kandil Mountain, known as the PKK’s headquarters, on Feb. 3 before they bombed four other points elsewhere on Kandil the next day, they said.

Some 50 targets, including a group of PKK members who were in a meeting, were hit on the second day of the operation.

The same sources said PKK targets in Turkey’s Hakkari in the southeast were also hit on Feb. 4.

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Feb. 7 outside the United Nations compound in the northern city of Arbil calling for an end to Turkish airstrikes against PKK militants, the Associated Press reported. 

Three police officers were reportedly wounded as the protests against Turkey in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region turned violent.

Turkey began launching airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in July 2015 as part of the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. In Syria it has targeted ISIL, while in Iraq it has taken aim at the PKK.

Turkey has stepped up efforts to secure its border with Syria as the country is currently facing a large number of Syrians who have massed on the Syrian side of the border, waiting to cross into Turkey. 

The Turkish General Staff said in a written statement that four F-16 Turkish fighter jets conducted patrol flights on Feb. 6 on a route along its Syrian border.

Turkey is also set to beef up military equipment and weapon systems used in street clashes between security forces and alleged PKK militants in the country’s violence-hit southeast.

Specifying the equipment needs of Turkish soldiers after weeks of ground operations targeting alleged militants in the southeastern towns of Cizre, Sur and Silopi, the Turkish General Staff said it would buy tens of thousands of weapons and military protective equipment, military sources told daily Hürriyet late Feb. 4. 
The Turkish army will reportedly purchase weapons systems designated to be placed in blind spots and the type of combat helmets the U.S. military’s special operations forces currently use. The army will also reportedly buy around 22,000 helmets for Turkish commando brigades along with bulletproof vests for each soldier.

The army will also buy long-barreled sniper rifles of medium and long range. Intelligence activities conducted in January revealed that PKK snipers armed with “Kanas” rifles, a Dragunov SVD rifle PKK militants use for assassinations in southeastern Turkey, pose a major threat to Turkish security forces. PKK snipers have thus far killed at least 23 Turkish security personnel and others collaborating with security forces during counterterrorism operations. 

Among other military equipment the Turkish army will add to its inventory in the country’s southeast are optical target detectors, which analyze gunshot sounds to locate their source, and microdrones to be used in alleys.

Turkey has recently stepped up efforts to fight terrorism in the southeast, specifically with ground operations targeting militants from the PKK. Local governors have imposed curfews in several towns in the country’s east and southeast to remove militants from the area.

Cizre and Silopi, two districts in the southeastern province of Şırnak, as well as Sur, a district in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, have been experiencing round-the-clock or partial curfews since the beginning of December 2015.