Turkish security forces killed nine PKK terrorists in northern Iraq on Tuesday during a cross-border counterterrorism operation in the region, unintentionally killing two Iraqi military officers and raising tensions between the two countries.
Seven of the terrorists were killed in air-backed operations in the Haftanin, Avasin and Metina regions after being detected by reconnaissance and surveillance activities, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Twitter.
The ministry said Turkey’s operations will continue until the last terrorist is killed and shared footage of the operation.
Separately, Turkey killed two other PKK terrorists in the Zap region in an air-backed operation, the ministry said on Twitter.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) regularly conducts cross-border operations in northern Iraq, a region where PKK terrorists have hideouts and bases from which to carry out attacks in Turkey. Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) previously called the PKK’s presence in Sinjar unacceptable and urged the militants to leave the area.
Iraqi casualties flare tensions
However, during the latest incidents, two Iraqis were also caught in the line of fire as Turkish forces targetted PKK terrorists, stirring up tension between Ankara and Baghdad.
Iraq canceled a ministerial visit and summoned Turkey’s ambassador as it blamed Ankara for the drone strike that killed two high-ranking Iraqi officers Tuesday.
Iraqi officials labeled the strike a “blatant Turkish drone attack.”
Iraq’s foreign ministry, which had already summoned the Turkish envoy twice over the military action on its soil, said the ambassador would this time be given “a letter of protest with strong words” condemning the move.
The ministry also said Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar would no longer be welcomed for a visit on Thursday.
Ihsan Chalabi, the mayor of nearby Sidakan in the north of Irbil province, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the drone strike in the Pradost region targeted “Iraqi border guard commanders while they were in meetings with PKK.”
Witnesses had reported clashes earlier in the day between PKK and Iraqi forces, and local sources said the drone strike targeted a meeting claiming to have tried to calm the tension.
Turkey has long been stressing that it will not tolerate terror threats posed against its national security and has called on Iraqi officials to take the necessary steps to eliminate the terrorist group. Ankara previously noted that if the expected steps are not taken, it would not shy away from targeting terror threats, particularly in Sinjar.
The PKK terrorist group managed to establish a foothold in Sinjar in mid-2014, on the pretext that it was protecting the local Yazidi community from Daesh. Since then, the PKK has reportedly established a new base in Sinjar for its logistical and command-and-control activities.
On Aug. 10, Akar inspected troops at the Iraqi border in Turkey’s southeastern Şırnak province, saying that the Claw-Eagle and Claw-Tiger operations, which started June 16, have been successfully continuing for the last 48 days.
“In the operations carried out by Turkish forces, 83 terrorists have been neutralized so far. A total of 359 mines/handmade explosives and 267 shelters were detected,” he said.
Operation Claw-Tiger was initiated a few days after Operation Claw-Eagle, which was launched in order to ensure the security of the Turkish people and the country’s borders by eliminating the PKK and other terrorist organizations that have been stepping up their harassment and attack attempts against the police and military bases.
Meanwhile, it is claimed that one of the PKK terrorists who were killed in the attack was Cemil Bayık, one of the so-called leaders of the PKK terrorist group. Founding member and senior leader of the PKK, Bayık is also among the members of the KCK, an umbrella group covering the PKK and its offshoots in the neighboring countries of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Bayık is the main culprit of a car bombing that killed 35 people in Ankara’s central Kızılay Square in March 2016. However, despite the speculation, Turkish authorities have yet to confirm the news.