Eight Villages Evacuated as Turkey Attacks PKK Kurds in Iraq

Iraqi security forces and Popular Mobilization Forces patrol in Tuz Khormato, that was evacuated by Kurdish security forces, 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. Two weeks after fighting together against the Islamic State, Iraqi forces pushed their Kurdish allies out of the disputed city …
AP Photo

Eight villages near the border of Iraq’s Kurdistan region have been emptied as residents flee a Turkish military offensive called “Operation Claw-Tiger” directed at positions allegedly held by the PKK, the Kurdish separatist party that has long been engaged in hostilities with the Turkish government.

Kurdish news service Rudaw reported that Turkish commandos have penetrated at least four kilometers into Iraqi Kurdistan, supported by airstrikes. Villagers living near the city of Zakho have fled from the offensive, in some cases leaving their property behind and completely abandoning their homes.

“Around three to four bombs fell right behind our village on Tuesday night. We could not take our sheep out for grazing,” said a villager who sought refuge in Zakho.

“We were forced to abandon our homes. Just some of them who have sheep have stayed. If the situation continues like it is now, they will leave as well,” said another.

“This is not the right thing they do against us. We are poor people. Our livelihood is in our village. We beg them to stop,” pleaded one elderly refugee.

The PKK clearly does maintain a significant presence in the mountainous border region under attack by Turkey, and the Iraqi government is not comfortable with their presence. Iraqi officials nevertheless responded angrily to the Turkish offensive, saying they were not informed in advance and there has been no coordination with Iraqi security forces. Iraq summoned the Turkish ambassador on Tuesday to formally protest the attack. The Iraqis demanded Turkey halt its bombing campaign and withdraw all of its forces from Iraqi soil.

The Turkish ambassador implacably replied that his government will “continue to fight the PKK wherever it is, unless Iraq takes steps to end the PKK presence in its country.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that it expects Iraq to “act in cooperation and harmony” with the assault on the PKK, which “threatens the national security of our country as well as the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq.”

The Turkish Defense Ministry said on Thursday it hit over 500 PKK targets with F-16 warplanes, drones, and artillery over the previous two days. 

The Iraqi military claims some of those strikes hit a refugee camp, and on Friday stated that at least four Kurdish civilians have been killed by Turkish attacks. Another report from the region said that a shepherd from the Christian village of Qashafar was killed by a Turkish missile on Thursday.

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