[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] has launched launched a major joint air and ground operation against Kurdish militants over the border in northern [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] , a move that suggests Ankara is growing bolder in its campaign against the decades-old Kurdish insurgency.
Special forces were airlifted and deployed overland to the border region of Haftanin in the early hours of Wednesday for Operation Claw-Tiger. The campaign targeted 150 suspected Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) positions and was supported by jets, helicopters, drones and artillery, the Turkish defence ministry said.
The attack follows Operation Claw-Eagle overnight on Monday, a major bombing campaign on 81 suspected PKK installations across the region, including in the Yazidi homeland of Sinjar and the Qandil mountains, the traditional PKK stronghold.
Despite the unprecedented scale and scope of the Turkish operations inside Iraqi territory, no civilian or combatant casualties have yet been reported.
The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in the 1980s to fight for an independent [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] nation. While it has since revised that goal in favour of a commitment to Kurdish rights and autonomy, the group is still designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and US.
Peace talks between the Turkish president, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] , and PKK leaders broke down in 2015, engulfing the south-east of the country in renewed violence. In the last few years Turkey has also been criticised for civilian deaths caused by bombing campaigns on PKK positions in northern Iraq and the [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] controlled by PKK-allied Kurdish militias.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] of a major Turkish offensive against the PKK in northern Iraq have been growing for months. The local Kurdistan regional government (KRG) has a strained relationship with the PKK and strong trade links with Turkey, long allowing Ankara to maintain military bases in the area.
Iranian artillery fire on PKK hideouts in a border region on Tuesday added to speculation that this week’s military action was a complex, internationally coordinated manoeuvre.
“We suspect that the two sides [Turkey and Iran] are in coordination, because this is the first time that Turkey has bombed this area,” the Haji Omaran district mayor Farzang Ahmed told the local news agency [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] .
The new Turkish operations across northern Iraq were met with silence from the KRG, but drew angry rebukes from both the Arab League and the federal government in Baghdad.
On Tuesday, Turkey’s ambassador was summoned to the Iraqi ministry of foreign affairs and formally reminded of the country’s “sanctity and sovereignty”, an Iraqi defence ministry statement said.
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), Turkish operations against the PKK have intensified since the beginning of this year. Up until May, 77% of engagements had taken place in northern Iraq, as Turkey seeks to push the fighting outside its own borders.
Inside Turkey, the government has continued a [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] on Kurdish politicians, activists and sympathisers it accuses of links to the PKK.
A “justice and democracy” march across the country organised by the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic party (HDP) set off from the western town of Edirne on Monday but was quickly met with barricades, teargas and rubber bullets from police.
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