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Turkish Military Hits PKK In Iraq, IS in Syria

  • RFE/RL

Turkish plainclothes police officers escort suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) group at a hospital for a medical check-up in Istanbul on July 24.

Turkish plainclothes police officers escort suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) group at a hospital for a medical check-up in Istanbul on July 24.

Turkey has carried out air and artillery strikes against Islamic State (IS) positions in Syria and Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

The Turkish government said on July 25 the air force hit shelters, bunkers, caves, storage facilities, and "other logistical points" belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, including the Qandil Mountains where the group’s military leadership is based.

Following the air strikes, the PKK said that its truce with Ankara, declared in 2013, had lost all meaning.

Ankara did not give details of what the jets targeted in the attacks on the IS group in Syria.

But Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that a first bombing operation against the militants had "100 percent" achieved its goals and had "successfully eliminated the targets."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said nine IS fighters were killed and 12 wounded in the strikes.

Turkey's military also shelled IS and PKK positions from across the Turkish border.

Davutoglu said these operations will continue “as long as there is a threat against Turkey."

He added that 590 suspected IS and PKK members were arrested across Turkey.

Among those arrested in Istanbul was a senior local IS figure, Halis Bayancuk, who has the nom-de-guerre of Ebu Hanzala, the official Anatolia news agency said.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said areas of northern Syria cleared of IS fighters would become natural "safe zones."

After long being a reluctant partner in the U.S.-led coalition against IS, Turkey has also approved the use of its air bases by U.S. and coalition aircraft to mount strikes against militant group.

The air raids were ordered in the wake of a suicide bombing blamed on IS that killed 32 people in the Turkish town of Suruc on July 20.

The PKK said it killed two Turkish police officers on July 22, claiming they collaborated with the IS group in the bombing, which targeted Kurdish activists.

And cross-border clashes with IS fighters on July 23 claimed the life of a Turkish soldier.

The leadership of Iraq’s Kurdistan region condemned the air strikes in the autonomous region.

Regional President Masud Barzani’s office said he spoke to Davutoglu by telephone and "expressed his displeasure with the dangerous level the situation has reached."

The statement says Barzani “requested that the issue not be escalated to that level because peace is the only way to solve problems and years of negotiations are better than one hour of war."

But Davutoglu said Barzani had expressed his "solidarity" with the operation when he spoke to him.

White House spokesman Alistair Baskey said Turkey had the right to defend itself against attacks by Kurdish militants.

Baskey also said the PKK should renounce terrorism and resume talks with Turkey's government.

Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, urged respect for national sovereignty in the fight against terrorism.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said, "Any action that leads to the weakening of national governments can, in effect, encourage terrorist groups to fulfil their criminal actions."

Turkey informed the United Nations that it had started conducting air strikes in Syria against IS because the Syrian government was “neither capable of nor willing to” tackle the radical Islamist group.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council, Turkey cited Article 51 of the UN Charter, which covers an individual or collective right to self-defense against armed attack, as justification for its action.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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