Turkey Deploys Forces Into Iraq
Turkey deployed ground forces across the border into northern Iraq on Tuesday for the first time since 2011, stepping up its battle against Kurdish rebels who have stung the Turkish military with a string of attacks in recent weeks…
Turkish authorities haven’t given a specific timeframe for the operation in northern Iraq, although one official said it was a “short-term” offensive to root out rebels. Turkish jets also carried out more airstrikes against rebel camps in the region.
The cross border operations came amid a wave of attacks by the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, that killed at least 31 soldiers and police since Sunday.
Turkey, a NATO ally, signed up for a more active participation in the U.S.-led coalition, after a deadly suicide bombing in July blamed on IS. It has allowed U.S. warplanes and drones to take off for missions against IS in Syria and its jets have struck IS targets near its border, in Syria.
But the country’s main focus has been its fight against the PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency for Kurdish autonomy. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said in comments reported by the Turkish media that IS is a lesser threat to Turkey than the PKK.
The Turkish troops crossed the border as part of a “hot pursuit” of the PKK rebels, who were involved in a roadside bomb attack that killed 16 soldiers on Sunday, the government official said.
The official didn’t say how many troops crossed into Iraq, or exactly how long the operation would last.
Turkey’s military has carried out numerous airstrikes and ground incursions into Iraqi territory in pursuit of the PKK over the past decades, but Tuesday’s raid was the first since 2011.
Turkish Military sources said two battalions from Turkey’s special forces crossed the border. A PKK spokesman, Bakhtyar Dogan, told The Associated Press that the Turkish forces entered from the Zagros mountains area in the Iraqi Dahouk province. Dogan, the PKK spokesman, said no clashes had erupted.
More than 200 people have been killed in the renewed fighting between the PKK and the security forces since July, including around 100 soldiers and police officers.