Ankara has begun a major cross-border military offensive, targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in the northern part of Iraq, Turkey’s defense minister announced on Monday morning.
The operation involves both a ground incursion by commando troops, and an extensive airstrike campaign using jets, helicopters and drones, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a video address.
Ankara claims it successfully destroyed multiple bunkers, tunnels and ammunition depots, as well as military headquarters of the PKK in northern Iraq’s border areas of Metina, Zap and Avashin-Basyan, before its ground forces moved into the neighboring state. It is unclear how many troops and military hardware are involved in the operation.
“Our operation is continuing successfully, as planned. The targets that were set for the first phase have been achieved,” Akar said, as cited by AP.
The PKK is a Kurdish militant political organization and armed guerrilla movement, who fight for an independent Kurdistan, have been battling Ankara since 1984, in a war that has claimed more than 40,000 lives. Over the years, Turkey has conducted multiple military operations against the PKK, which is based in northern Iraq and has used the territory to fuel insurgency in the eastern part of Turkey.
The PKK has also been designated a terrorist group by the US, UK, and EU. However, the Kurds were an important ally to the West and the US in the fight against Islamic State terrorists both in Syria and Iraq. Washington maintains a military foothold in Syrian Kurdish-controlled regions, while the Iraqi Kurdistan region hosts several American military installations and a US consulate in Erbil.