Turkish drone and fighter strike on Kurdish bases in northern Syria and Iraq leaves at least four dead

Turkey bombs Kurdish rebel bases in Syria and Iraq

AFP/MUSTAFA OZER - A Turkish army helicopter flies over the mountains of Sirnak province, near the Turkish-Iraqi border

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey, continues to make progress in his fight against Kurdish rebel movements in the region, even if this requires military activities beyond the borders of Turkey. So much so that denunciations of systematic violations of Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish sovereignty have been a constant over the past decades. For more than 25 years, Ankara has installed dozens of de facto military bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, and, along these lines, several territories in northern Syria have been occupied by Turkish troops since 2016.  

Now, Turkey's campaign against the Kurdish minority has prompted the Ottoman army to mobilise nearly 60 aircraft to bomb Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraqi and Syrian territories overnight on Tuesday. "Only terrorists and targets belonging to terrorists were attacked," said Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Syrian militia People's Protection Units (YPG) - Kurdish organisations declared by Ankara to be "terrorist groups".  

Hulusi Akar

According to the Ottoman Defence Ministry, the drones and fighter jets that carried out the bombings took off from six different air bases, targeting "Kurdish training camps, shelters and military ammunition storage areas" in the regions of Derik in northern Syria and Majmur and Sinjar in Iraq. The three simultaneous strikes - located outside Turkish borders - resulted in the "destruction" of some 80 targets, ministry sources said, although they maintained that "the operation against the Kurdish guerrillas is not over".  

"The task is not over; it will continue until the last one is neutralised. Targets in northern Iraq and Syria have been eliminated, without harming innocent people or the environment," Hulusi Akar announced.  


However, according to a statement issued by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the bombing of a Syrian power station - located in the town of Derik, in the province of Al Hasaka - has killed four security guards and workers of the facility; although the large number of wounded in a "critical" condition suggests that this number could increase in the coming hours. Iraqi Kurdistan's counter-terrorism services also deplored the "human and material losses" caused by the attacks.  

"According to the information we have received, Turkish military aircraft bombed six PKK positions in the Karjokh mountains," said a statement issued by the Kurdistan Autonomous Region authorities, although they did not specify the number of dead and wounded.

Hours after the events, Baghdad and Iraqi security forces demanded that Ankara put an end to interference in Iraq's internal sovereignty in the common interest of both powers. However, the Ottoman government privately believes that the Arab country is firmly on its side in the fight against the PKK, which is also considered a terrorist group by the US and the European Union, which included it on the list of terrorist organisations at Turkey's request.  

The PKK, the YPG and Turkey  

The Kurdistan Workers' Party took up arms in the 1980s to demand independence and the power of self-determination for the Kurdish minority from the Turkish state. In global terms, this minority could number as many as 45 million people, and its main settlement is in Turkey, where the Kurdish population exceeds 15 million, around 20 per cent of the country's total population.  

The presence of PKK militants, as well as the idea of a possible Kurdistan state in parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, has therefore been a provocative and destabilising factor in the region for Erdogan. Indeed, today the PKK is no longer the Ottoman president's only enemy in the country; all Kurds residing in the area have also come to arouse the president's animosity. However, the scope of Ankara's campaign against the Kurdish-Syrian YPG militia has not been equally supported by Western powers, as the People's Protection Units have been a close ally of Washington in the fight against Daesh on Syrian territory. 

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