Turkey launched an air and ground offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq on Wednesday, in a move likely to increase friction with the Baghdad government.
The defense ministry said “commandos” moved in supported by drones and helicopters, following a bombardment with rocket launchers and artillery guns that hit more than 150 targets. It added that the operation, dubbed “Claw-Tiger,” came after a “recent upsurge in attacks on our police stations and military bases” near the Iraqi border.
Turkey carried out air strikes earlier this week that drew an angry response from Iraq, which labeled them “a violation of sovereignty.”
The Turkish military regularly carries out operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeast Turkey and its rear bases across the border.
The operation on Sunday night saw raids in the northern Iraqi territories of Kandil, Sinjar, and Hakurk.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s ruling party spokesman defended Turkey’s actions. “Turkey continues its effective fight against terror using its rights based on international law,” Omer Celik said on Twitter. “It is our most natural right and duty to fight against terrorists who attack our borders, citizens and security forces.”
The PKK, which has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, is banned as a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies. Tens of thousands have been killed during the violence, which resumed after a two-year ceasefire collapsed in 2015.
PKK bases are not explicitly authorized but are tolerated by an autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Iraq.
Iraq summoned Turkey’s Baghdad envoy Fatih Yildiz over the raids on Sunday night. The ambassador tweeted he had informed Iraqi officials that Turkey would “fight the PKK wherever it is” if Iraq did not “take any steps” to remove the PKK’s presence.