Turkish military says struck PKK targets in Iraq, Syria

Cheryl Sanders
April 26, 2017

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday said it was "deeply concerned" over the strikes. Critics of Turkey have accused it of tacitly supporting ISIS against the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria and of covertly profiting from trade with the Islamic State.

In its statement, the military vowed to press ahead with operations against the PKK both inside Turkey and across its borders until the "last terrorist is eliminated".

The YPG is a key component of the Syrian Democratic Forces - backed by the United States in the fight against ISIS in Syria.

Some also fled to al-Mayadin, further down the Euphrates River and the location where USA special operations forces killed a mid-level associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi late last week.

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahebarra, reporting from Gaziantep on the Turkey-Syria border, said the air strikes come at a moment of strained ties between Turkey and Iraq.

The strikes killed more than two dozen Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to sources on the ground, while the Turkish army claimed 70 militants were killed. Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, friendly to Turkey, also reportedly suffered fatalities.

The U.S. -led coalition "has a huge responsibility and must carry out its duty to protect this area, because we are partners in fighting IS", he said.

The five Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers were killed Tuesday morning and several others wounded in Turkish air strikes as their base was close to a location used by members of the PKK-affiliated group.

"PKK has been problematic for the people of the Kurdistan Region and, despite broad calls to withdraw, refuses to leave Sinjar".

Khalil Adar, a spokesman for the PKK in Sinjar, said none of the group's bases was targeted in the raid.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry denounced the strikes as a "violation against Iraq's sovereignty" and called on the worldwide community to put an end to such "interferences" by Turkey.

United States commandos are working with local Kurds on the ground, much to the fury of Turkey, which sees the Kurdish YPG forces as a terrorist offshoot of the PKK that has been waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. Khalil said he was not aware of any casualties among PKK rebels.

"The United States is sending a strong message with this action that we will hold the entire Assad regime accountable for these blatant human rights violations in order to deter the spread of these types of barbaric chemical weapons", said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

A U.S. military officer accompanied YPG commanders on a tour of the sites in Syria later on Tuesday to demonstrate the close partnership, Reuters news agency said.

"This painful and unacceptable attack on Peshmerga forces by Turkish warplanes is a result of PKK's presence in and around Sinjar", the Peshmerga Ministry said, calling on the PKK to leave the area.

One strike also appeared to misfire, killing five peshmerga soldiers allied with Turkey.

Turkey accuses other Kurdish forces, particularly the YPG in Syria, of being in league with the PKK.

The SDF entered the town on Monday as part of its offensive on Raqa, Syrian heart of the jihadists self-styled "caliphate" since 2014.

Other reports by iNewsToday