Turkish army says 20 Kurdish militants killed in air strikes in southeast, Iraq’s north

Turkish F-16 fighte jet

(Reuters/ Turkey’s military killed 20 militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in air strikes targeting southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq, the army said in a statement on Tuesday.

In three separate air strikes, Turkish warplanes hit the southeastern province of Van bordering Iran, and northern Iraq’s Zap and Hakurk regions. Some of the militants were believed to be in preparation of an attack, the military said.

Sixteen militants were killed and a gun post and a logistics hub were destroyed in two separate air bombardments in Iraq. Air strikes in Van killed four other militants, the army said.

The PKK, which has carried out a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state, has camps in the mountains of northern Iraq, near the Turkish border. It is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

A ceasefire between the Turkish state and the PKK broke down in July 2015 and the southeast subsequently saw some of the worst violence since the PKK launched its insurgency in 1984.

Turkey and Iraq had engaged in diplomatic disputes over the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq;s Nineveh. While Ankara said its forces were training local groups to fight Islamic State militants, Baghdad maintained that the military presence represented a breach of its sovereignty.

Ankara has also been concerned with Kurdish groups in neighboring Syria. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been actively engaged in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, but Ankara views the group as an extension of the PKK.

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