Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said commando units, unmanned aerial vehicles and attack helicopters were pounding outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) hideouts in three restive regions near the Turkish border.
Turkey routinely carries out attacks in Iraq, where the PKK has bases and training camps in the Sinjar region and on the mountainous border with Turkey.
“Our heroic pilots successfully struck shelters, caves, tunnels and ammunition depots belonging to the terrorist organization,” Akar said.
“A large number of terrorists were ‘neutralized’,” he said, adding that the scale of the operation will “further increase in the coming hours and days.”
Akar would not say how many troops were involved in the operation, which he said started Sunday night.
The defense ministry said the operation was meant to thwart a large-scale attack against Turkey by the PKK.
But its planning had been reported in the Turkish media for weeks.
Nonetheless, Turkish forces have faced fierce resistance on the ground.
According to PKK sources, at least eight Turkish soldiers were killed overnight, while efforts to land troops in the Brindaran cave in the Zap mountain range were repelled.
In a statement, the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), an umbrella group that includes the PKK, warned that the new offensive posed “a grave threat to the entire region and unity among Kurds in all parts of Kurdistan.”
The operation was predicted by PKK intelligence, which warned in March that a Turkish invasion was planned for April 15 with the support of the regionally dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
The guerillas refused to give up their bases, believing the request to be part of a Turkish plot.
Emergency demonstrations were held across Europe urging the international community to break its silence over Turkey’s war on Kurds.
“If the world continues to turn a blind eye to Erdogan’s aggression, we will see increased bloodshed, displacement and instability throughout Kurdistan and the Middle East,” a KNK statement said.
“We call on all governments and international organisations, including the UN, Nato, the EU, the Council of Europe and the Arab League, to take urgent action against this violation of international law, to unambiguously condemn this crime of aggression and to demand that Turkey withdraws its troops from south Kurdistan.
“We call on political parties, human rights organizations, organizations for peace, trade unionists and activists to oppose this Turkish aggression Last Friday, Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul and it is believed that they discussed the invasion plans.
During the meeting with Erdogan, Barzani was also asked to facilitate talks between Turkey and Iraq over a deal for the export of natural gas.
Intelligence sources told the Morning Star that the KDP-allied Zerevani armed forces had urged the PKK to relinquish their positions and allow them to take over.
Barzani said after his talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he welcomed “expanding cooperation to promote security and stability” in northern Iraq.
The government of Iraq’s Kurdistan has an uneasy relationship with the PKK militants, whose presence complicates the region’s lucrative trade ties with Turkey.
But the offensives have added strains to Ankara’s ties with Iraq’s central government in Baghdad, which accuses Turkey of failing to respect the war-torn country’s territorial integrity.
The latest raids, dubbed Operation Claw-Lock, come on the heels of operations Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle launched by the Turkish army in northern Iraq in 2020.
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