Turkey Launches All-Out War: 260 Kurds Dead in a Week
Turkey has killed 260 Kurdish militants in a week-long air offensive on targets in northern Iraq, official media claimed Saturday, as regional Iraqi authorities said it was time the rebels pulled out with concerns growing over civilian casualties.
Ankara has launched a two-pronged “anti-terror” offensive against Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists in Syria and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants based in northern Iraq after a wave of attacks inside Turkey.
But so far the bombardments have focused far more on the Kurdish rebels and a report by the official Anatolia news agency of 260 alleged PKK militants killed was the first concrete indication of the scale of the casualties.
The Turkish strikes against Kurdish forces come as critics say Ankara is using backlash against a massive ISIS suicide bombing late last month to crack down on the Kurds, in a move that comes after Western officials revealed Turkey has been cooperating with ISIS.
Turkish F-16 jets carried out more air strikes Saturday morning, NTV television said.
On Friday, 28 Turkish F-16s destroyed 65 targets of the PKK including shelters and arms depots, following the heaviest air strikes the day before when 80 Turkish aircraft hit 100 PKK targets, Anatolia said.
“For the peace and security of our people, the fight against terror organizations will continue without interruption,” the office of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a statement.
The PKK’s insurgency for greater rights and powers for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, begun more than 30 years ago, has left tens of thousands dead. A ceasefire declared in 2013 has been shattered by the current violence.
Iraqi Kurds tell PKK to go
Turkey’s Kurdish militants have sought cover in neighboring northern Iraq where the presence of the PKK has long been tolerated in Iraqi Kurdish-ruled region. More fighters also crossed into the area from Turkey as part of the 2013 ceasefire.
Yet the PKK’s relations with the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish authorities in Arbil have been beset by tensions, while Iraqi Kurds have expanded economic cooperation and relations with Turkey.
The office of the region’s president Massud Barzani said in a statement Saturday that the PKK rebels should move out of the region to prevent civilian casualties.
“The PKK must keep the battlefield away from the Kurdistan region in order for civilians not to become victims of this war,” it said.
The Kurdistan Regional government issued a slightly softer statement urging the PKK to keep its “forces…away from populated areas.”
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