Turkey launched a new cross-border offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq early Monday.
Turkish warplanes, helicopters and drones hit Kurdish militant targets, camps, tunnels, shelters, and ammunition storage areas in northern Iraq, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.
"Until now, our operation is continuing successfully as planned. The targets identified in the first phase have been captured," he said, but did not provide any information on casualties resulting from the operation.
Turkish jets and artillery struck targets belonging to Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The group maintains bases in northern Iraq and has used the territory for attacks on Turkey.
Turkey's crackdown on PKK militants has gone hand in hand with a crackdown on the broader Kurdish movement, including the imprisonment of political leaders and the attempted ban of the People's Democratic Party (HDP).
Turkey's Kurdish allies
Turkey's Defense Ministry claimed that the PKK was preparing for a "large-scale attack" and said that the Turkish offensive was carried out in coordination with "friends and allies."
The ministry did not say who this referred to, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq, last week.
The Barzanis, which include the former and current regional presidents, oppose the PKK.
Turkey's fear of Kurdish independence has led them to carry out cross-border attacks, including taking control of the Kurdish region of Afrin in Syria in order to weaken the left-wing independence movement.
But Ankara has found an ally in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which has ruled the Iraqi autonomous region since even before its formal recognition by Baghdad in 2005.
What is the offensive aimed at?
The operation, dubbed "Operation Claw Lock," aimed to "prevent terror attacks" and "ensure our border security." It was also supported by artillery units, Akar said.
The operation targeted Metina, Zap and Avasin-Basyan regions of northern Iraq. It also included commandos who have "entered the region by infiltration from land," according to the minister.
"We are determined to save our noble nation from the terror misfortune that has plagued our country for 40 years," said Akar.
The offensive is part of Turkey's campaign in Iraq and Syria against the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Both are regarded as a terrorist group by Ankara.
The US and the EU have also designated the PKK as a terror outfit.
The group took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since then.
ab, tg/sri (AP, Reuters)