Turkish Ground Troops Cross into Iraq in Pursuit of PKK Militants

REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkey has sent ground forces into Iraq to chase down Kurdish militants for the first time since a ceasefire deal was reached more than two years ago.

“Turkish security forces crossed the Iraqi border as part of the hot pursuit of PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] terrorists who were involved in the most recent attacks,” a Turkish government source told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“This is a short-term measure intended to prevent the terrorists’ escape,” added the source.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reportedly said the PKK has suffered “serious damage” inside and outside of Turkey and was in a state of “panic.”

Turkey’s Doğan News Agency pointed out that two special forces units, backed by warplanes, had attacked two groups of Kurdish militants.

“On Tuesday, Turkish war jets reportedly launched a wave of airstrikes against PKK bases in northern Iraq,” notes BBC.

“Meanwhile, at least 14 Turkish police officers died in a bomb attack blamed on Kurdish militants on Tuesday,” adds the article. “The attack in [Turkey’s] eastern Igdir province came a day after suspected PKK bombs killed at least 16 Turkish soldiers in south-eastern Hakkari region.”

The Anadolu Agency reports that at least 35 rebels were killed on Tuesday by airstrikes on Iraq’s PKK bases at Qandil, Basyan, Avashin, and Zap.

“Not a day passes by in Turkey these days without violence,” notes BBC. “And as one attack follows another, emotions are running high.”

“The funerals of 16 soldiers killed in Sunday’s PKK attack were taking place on Tuesday,” it adds. “Several thousand people have protested in cities across Turkey against PKK violence and the offices of the pro-Kurdish HDP party have come under attack.”

Serious concerns have surfaced in Turkey that the violence could spiral out of control.

“The surge in violence follows the collapse of a ceasefire in July between the army and the PKK,” reports BBC.

“The truce, which began in 2013, unravelled after a suicide bombing by suspected Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL] militants near the border with Syria led to mutual recriminations between Kurdish groups and Turkey,” it adds.

The PKK began its armed campaign in 1984, calling for an independent Kurdish state within Turkey.

Since then, more than 40,000 have reportedly died.

“In Sunday’s attack, the PKK detonated bombs near two military vehicles in the village of Daglica, close to the border with Iraq,” points out BBC.

In response, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu vowed to “wipe out” rebel strongholds.

“Those mountains will be cleared of these terrorists. Whatever it takes, they will be cleared,” he reportedly said.

On Tuesday, in what BBC described as a “defiant speech” in Ankara, President Erdoğan promised that “with God’s permission, Turkey, which has overcome plenty of crises, will get over the plague of terror.”

“Critics accuse President Erdogan of renewing violence to curb support for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), whose 14% share of the vote in June elections cost the governing AKP its parliamentary majority,” notes BBC, adding that “the government denies the accusations.”

The PKK is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey’s NATO ally.