Turkey launches new offensive against PKK in Iraq

The Turkish Defence Ministry, in a press release, announced the launch of Operation 'Claw-Tiger 2'
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Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS  -   Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP)

Turkey, in its eternal fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has launched a new offensive in northern Iraq, more specifically in the Kurdish city of Duhok. In a statement, the Turkish Defence Ministry announced the launch of Operation Claw-Tiger 2, which aims to neutralise the PKK terrorist group.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already announced weeks ago that he was prepared to carry out a military attack against the terrorist group on Iraqi soil. The Ministry of Defence has explained its action behind the premise of "eliminating terrorist attacks against our people and security forces from northern Iraq and guaranteeing our border security".

The ministry also claims that PKK fighters have established "safe havens and positions and are preparing for a large-scale attack" in northern Iraq, the ministry said. Meanwhile, PKK-affiliated media claimed that several clashes took place between PKK fighters and the Turkish military in the Gara mountain, located about 50 kilometres northeast of Duhok.

Last month, Turkey's own Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, during a visit to Baghdad, stated that "cooperation and coordination against the PKK play a very important role. We are ready for all possible coordination with Iraq".

This is not Turkey's first interference on Iraqi soil. Not so long ago, in June 2020, Ankara launched a ground offensive, dubbed "Operation Tiger Claw", an air and ground military offensive in northern Iraq against the PKK, whose command centre was in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.

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PHOTO/Turkish Ministry of Defence via AP - Turkish troops in action against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq

It is not uncommon for the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) to regularly conduct cross-border operations in northern Iraq, a region where PKK terrorists often hide and also establish bases from which to carry out attacks on Turkish soil. Iraq's own Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has itself described the PKK's presence in Sinjar, a town in northeastern Iraq, as unacceptable and has urged the militants to leave the area.

Since 2016, Turkey has also launched several counter-terrorism operations in northern Syria, another focus of its fight against the PKK, to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and allow the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Spring of Peace (2019).

Turkey has reported that, last Sunday, its security forces seized a truck carrying weapons and ammunition for the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist organisation, the YPG, in al-Bab province in northern Syria. Local security units received information about the presence of weapons, according to a statement from the office of the governor of Turkey's southeastern Gaziantep province, which provides advisory services to the Syrian city.