Turkey has launched military operations to eliminate the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, targeting its headquarters in the Kandil Mountain region and in the Sinjar province of the country, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.
“Remember that I mentioned about Kandil and Sinjar in northern Iraq. We have launched operations against there. Fourteen important targets have been hit by 20 of our warplanes,” Erdoğan said in a campaign rally in the Central Anatolian province of Niğde.
“Our warplanes returned to their bases after they hit [the PKK]. But it’s not over. Our objective is to drain the biggest swamp [of terror]. Kandil will no longer be a threat and source of terror,” he added.
Ankara’s preparations for a large-scale operation against the PKK presence in the northern Iraq began in early March with Special Forces and a scores of troops penetrating into the difficult terrain to set up regional bases. Turkey now has 11 bases in northern Iraq in a bid to effectively and sustainably fight against the PKK, which for decades has enjoyed the relative security vacuum in the region.
Erdoğan referred to Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria’s Afrin and al-Bab against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), while also praising achievements in the field of the defense industry that paved the way to producing locally made drones and armed drones.
“We no longer buy them from America or Israel. Our F-16s hit the targets identified by our drones. We will completely remove terror from the agenda of this country,” he said.
Amid suggestions that the latest military campaign is timed for the government’s political benefit ahead of snap elections on June 24, Erdoğan claimed that the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its presidential candidate Muharrem İnce do “not support the government’s fight against terror.”
“Whatever [CHP leader] Kemal [Kılıçdaroğlu] and Muharrem say, we will continue our fight. Wherever they are, the terrorists will pay back for the blood of our martyrs they shed. In Afrin alone, [the number of militants killed] exceeded 4,500,” he said.
The YPG is widely acknowledged as the PKK’s Syrian offshoot and Turkey has repeatedly urged the PKK that its headquarters in northern Iraq is no longer a safe haven.
In a recent interview, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey was in talks with the United States, the central Iraqi government in Baghdad, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Arbil for a four-way coordination to finally put an end to the presence of the PKK in northern Iraq.