The militant separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) launched an attack against a Turkish outpost near the Iranian border on Tuesday night, killing at least one Turkish soldier and wounding another.
Viral video clips show an intense firefight around the outpost that sent civilians from nearby villages running for cover.
According to the Turkish Defense Ministry, a unit of its soldiers on a reconnaissance mission in the mountainous border area were hit by “gunfire from the direction of Iran.”
Eyewitnesses from the Iranian village of Kuran told the Kurdish news service Rudaw that the incident was actually a full-blown attack on a Turkish outpost that lasted about three hours and involved heavy machine-gun fire, continuing even after the Turks brought in reinforcements.
Rudaw noted that local Kurdish media initially reported the battle as a clash between Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and “Iranian Kurdish opposition groups,” but civilian witnesses insist it was a PKK attack. The PKK itself had not claimed responsibility for the strike as of Wednesday morning.
There are militant Kurdish groups in the region who have been known to skirmish with IRGC forces, and the IRGC is currently mounting a significant operation against them, while Turkey began hitting PKK positions in Iraq with a major military campaign last week.
On the other hand, Turkey has stated it believes its PKK adversaries are trying to establish a foothold in Iran so they can attack Turkey from that direction. The IRGC resents Turkey’s implication that it has lost control of the border region or would allow the PKK to stage attacks against Turkey from Iranian soil.
“The officials of the friendly and neighboring state of Turkey are expected to make contacts with the Islamic Republic of Iran through official channels after verifying the authenticity of an incident and before making any comments to the media about border incidents,” IRGC commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour grumbled on June 14 after Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu claimed at least a hundred PKK fighters have infiltrated the Iranian city of Maku.
The Iraqis are equally displeased that Turkey is sending commando squads, artillery barrages, and airstrikes across their border to attack the PKK. Iran’s operation against Kurdish militants has also involved artillery strikes against targets in Iraqi Kurdistan.