Turkish jets target Kurdish positions in Iraq, Syria

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdish militant positions in Iraq and Syria early on Wednesday in a new aerial offensive which officials said aimed to protect Turkey’s borders from terrorist threats.

A Turkish defense ministry statement said the strikes hit targets on Sinjar Mountain and in the Karacak region in northern Iraq, and the Derik region in northern Syria.

The operations dubbed “Winter Eagle” were aimed against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq, and the People’s Protection Units, or YPG in Syria. The targets struck included shelters, caves, tunnels, ammunition depots, bases and training camps, the ministry said.

The YPG is a close U.S. ally against the Islamic State group but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.

The strikes aimed to “eliminate terrorist attacks against our people and security forces from the north of Iraq and Syria and to ensure our border security,” the ministry statement read.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar claimed that several militants were “neutralized” in the operation, including a number of names wanted by Turkey. There was no immediate comment from the Kurdish groups.

All planes returned to their bases safely, the ministry said, adding that “utmost sensitivity was shown” regarding the security of the civilians during the operations.

The defense ministry said Turkey would “continue the fight against terrorism for the security of our country and our nation with determination until the last terrorist is neutralized.”

Turkey has carried out similar cross-border airstrikes in the past.

The PKK has led an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 which has killed tens of thousands of people. The group is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its allies, including the U.S. and European Union.

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