Turkish warplanes have renewed airstrikes against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions in northern Iraq, Reuters has learned from military sources.
Three Turkish soldiers and 12 Kurdistan Workers’ Party terrorists were reportedly killed in separate battles over the weekend, notes Reuters.
Turkish military sources told Reuters that early on Sunday, “the F-16 and F-4 2020 aircraft destroyed bunkers, ammunition depots and gun installations in four northern Iraqi regions, including Qandil, where the PKK has camps.”
The sources added that the fighter jets safely returned to their bases.
Since a ceasefire between the Ankara and the PKK collapsed in July 2015, Turkey has repeatedly attacked PKK targets in northern Iraq, which is largely controlled by the U.S.-backed Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
KRG President Masoud Barzani appeared to take Turkey’s side when it began launching airstrikes against the PKK in July of last year.
“The Turkish government has taken positive steps, and has adopted a positive attitude for a peaceful resolution; however, we have seen that some sides (the PKK) has taken [sic] it as a matter of pride and did not utilize these opportunities,” Barzani said in statement issued late that month.
“Concerning the attitude of Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, we do not represent Turkey’s politics and we are not responsible for the PKK’s politics,” declared the KRG leader. “What we can offer is to help get them together to settle their issues through dialogue and mutual understanding.”
Although Barzani unequivocally condemned the PKK, he did note that he had expressed “displeasure” to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu regarding Turkey’s airstrikes in KRG territory.
Despite some PKK-affiliated Kurds assisting the KRG in its fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in northern Iraq, the Iraqi Kurdish leadership repeatedly expressed suspicion regarding the Marxist terrorist group.
The rivalry between PKK and KRG President Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) traces back to the Iraqi Kurdish civil war in the 1990s.
Nevertheless, the KRG leader has urged Turkey and the PKK to abandon violence and “return to dialogue.”
“More than 40,000 people have died since the autonomy-seeking PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984,” reports Reuters.
While Ankara considers the U.S.-backed Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), to be the PKK’s Syrian affiliates, Washington has not labeled the Syrian Kurdish groups terrorist organizations.
President Barack Obama’s State Department has repeatedly said that it does consider neither the PYD nor the YPG to be terrorist groups. In fact, the Obama administration has said that the Syrian Kurds are some of America’s most effective partners against ISIS on the ground.
Nevertheless, the Secretary of Defense recently told lawmakers that the Syrian Kurdish groups are aligned with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Soon thereafter, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the Obama administration for making “contradictory statements” on the Syrian Kurds, reported Daily Sabah, a pro-government publication in Turkey.