ISTANBUL (AP) – Turkish warplanes “neutralized” 23 Kurdish militants in a raid 140 kilometers inside Iraq, the Turkish Defense Ministry said Sunday.
The ministry usually refers to killed militants as “neutralized.” It said the number of casualties in the mission in the Asos region of northern Iraq, which is controlled by the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, was expected to rise.
A video accompanying the ministry’s tweet showed F-16 fighters taking off and a number of explosions in a mountainous area. The ministry referred to a statement from Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Thursday in which he said airstrikes had hit 16 targets in the Asos region.
Turkey has been conducting a series of operations in northern Iraq since 2019, saying the military is targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to prevent it from launching cross-border attacks on Turkey. In April, Operation Claw-Lock was launched, which involves ground and air forces.
The Defense Ministry later said seven “terrorists” had been neutralized in north Syria in response to the killing of a Turkish police officer in a missile attack on Sunday. The attack on a Turkish base near al-Bab was carried out by Kurdish militants from the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, according to official statements.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s interior minister has described a gun attack that killed a police officer in the country’s south as an “America-based” operation.
Two suspected Kurdish militants opened fire on security force lodgings in the Mediterranean province of Mersin late on Monday, killing one officer and wounding a second officer and a civilian. The female attackers, who Turkish authorities said were affiliated with the outlawed PKKlater killed themselves by detonating bombs.
“This action is an America-based action,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told ruling party officials in the Black Sea province of Giresun, according to the private Demiroren news agency and other outlets.
Soylu also said U.S. authorities had requested the serial numbers of the firearms used in the attack from the Turkish police, without specifying which U.S. agency made the request.
Turkish government officials have previously accused Washington of supporting the PKK by arming and training the group’s Syrian branch, known as the YPG.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the 38-year on-off conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey. The U.S. does not recognize the YPG as a terrorist entity.
Soylu last year alleged American involvement in a failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 that killed more than 250 people.