President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Turkish forces had killed a top Syrian Kurdish commander during an offensive in neighboring Iraq.
The Turkish army last month launched a new ground and air offensive against militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party dubbed Operation Claw Lightning.
Erdogan said the military push had eliminated a Syrian-born “terrorist” who used the nom de guerre Sofi Nurettin. He said Nurettin had served as the PKK’s top military commander in Syria. Nurettin “was neutralized by the operation carried out in northern Iraq,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.
The PKK — listed as a terror group by Ankara and much of the international community — has been using Iraq’s northern mountains as a springboard in its decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
The Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids against PKK bases in northern Iraq.
Turkey launched another operation in February against PKK rebels holed up in the northern Iraqi region of Dohuk. That raid created controversy because it was designed in part to rescue 12 Turkish soldiers and an Iraqi held captive by the PKK in a cave.
Turkey accused the PKK of executing the 13 men before they could be freed.
Erdogan said on Monday that Nurettin bore partial responsibility for the 13 deaths.