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Casualties confirmed as Turkey targets PKK in Iraq and Syria

The Turkish defence ministry said it carried out strikes in "the regions of Derik, Sinjar and [Mount] Kararak in northern Iraq and Syria" targeting suspected bases of the PKK and the People's Protection Units (YPG), a US-backed Syrian Kurdish group.

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Turkish warplanes carried out strikes against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and Syria, the Turkish defence ministry said Wednesday, with authorities in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region reporting “casualties”.

“Turkish warplanes targeted several positions of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters” on Tuesday, including in the Makhmur and Sinjar regions, Kurdish counter-terrorism services said, without specifying the number of dead or wounded.

The Turkish defence ministry said it carried out strikes in “the regions of Derik, Sinjar and [Mount] Kararak in northern Iraq and Syria” targeting suspected bases of the PKK and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a US-backed Syrian Kurdish group that Ankara considers a “terrorist” offshoot of the PKK.

“Shelters, bunkers, caves, tunnels, ammunition depots and alleged headquarters and training camps” were targeted, the ministry said.

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Viewed as a “terrorist” group by Turkey and its Western allies after a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state, the PKK has bases and training camps in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq and on the mountainous border with Turkey.

“Turkish military aircraft bombed six PKK positions in the Karjokh mountains,” said the Kurdish counter-terrorism services statement.

It said Turkish jets carried out strikes on “two other positions in the Sinjar mountains and the adjacent area in Syria”.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, reported a “strike by a Turkish drone” on a Syrian Kurdish position near the Rmeilan oil field in the Kurdish-controlled northeast.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has threatened to “clean up” parts of northern Iraq, accuses the PKK of using the mountainous border area as a springboard for its insurgency.

Turkish forces routinely conduct military strikes against suspected PKK hideouts in the area, straining Ankara’s relations with Baghdad.

In December, Turkey carried out retaliatory air strikes in northern Iraq after three Turkish soldiers died in a PKK attack.

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Ankara has mounted successive air and ground offensives targeting rear bases of the PKK rebels, whose insurgency has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.

Turkey also has a military presence in neighbouring Syria, where it has seized swathes of territory in successive military operations since 2016.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk