Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country’s military forces will drain the “terror swamp” in the Qandil region of Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, which serves as the stronghold of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.
“We’ve started anti-terror operations in Qandil and Sinjar. We’ve destroyed 14 important targets with our 20 aircraft. They [the warplanes] carried out airstrikes and returned; but it has not finished yet. It will continue,” Erdogan told local residents at a rally in the central Turkish town of Niğde.
He noted, “Our target is to drain the biggest swamp in Qandil region.”
The remarks came only days after Erdogan had waned that “A military operation targeting PKK bases in Qandil and Sinjar will be launched if Turkey is threatened and if Baghdad says it is unable to solve the problem.”
The Turkish president also said on June 7 that the United Nations refugee camp in Makhmur town could be another target.
“Makhmur is very important. If the United Nations cannot solve this problem, we will strike Makhmur,” Erdogan said, describing the camp as a “breeding ground for terrorists.”
PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.
Turkey, along with the European Union and the United States, has declared the PKK a terrorist group and banned it. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.
A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.
Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.
More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the autonomy-seeking militant group.