Turkey moves troops against Kurdish militants in north Iraq

Minister of National Defence of Turkey, Hulusi Akar (center) and the Turkish Armed Forces Command are managing and dispatching the Operation Claw-Tiger from the Army Command Control Center in Ankara, Turkey on June 17, 2020. (Arif Akdogan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey says it has airlifted troops for a cross-border ground operation against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

A Defense Ministry statement said Wednesday the airborne operation in Iraq’s Haftanin region was launched following “intense” artillery fire into the area.

The operation by commando forces is being supported by attack helicopters, artillery and armed and unarmed drones, the ministry said on statements posted on Twitter. It did not say how many commandos are involved.

The ministry said the operation follows “increasing harassment and attempts to attack” military outposts or bases near the border area. It said it also targets other terror groups in the region, but did not name the groups.

“Operation Claw-Tiger is continuing successfully as planned,” the ministry said.

Turkey regularly carries out air and ground operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which maintains bases in northern Iraq. Wednesday’s operation was the first known airborne land offensive.

It came days after Turkey launched an aerial operation in the region, which the Defense Ministry said hit suspected PKK targets in several regions in Iraq’s north, including Sinjar, and targeted 81 rebel hideouts.

There was also no immediate comment from Baghdad or northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

The PKK has led a decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly-Kurdish southeast region. It is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The conflict has led to the loss of tens of thousands lives since it started in 1984.