|Date: Mar 26, 2018|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Erdogan: Turkey begins move against PKK in northern Iraq|
|ISTANBUL / SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that Turkey had begun operations in Iraq’s Sinjar region, an area where it has threatened a military incursion, two days after sources said Kurdish PKK militants would withdraw from the area. “We said we would go into Sinjar. Now operations have begun there. The fight is internal and external,” Erdogan told a crowd in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, without elaborating on what operations he was referring to.|
He spoke of a possible operation against PKK camps in the region, adding that he had told Iraqi authorities to deal with those camps.
“If [Baghdad] cannot, we may turn up in Sinjar suddenly one night and clean up the PKK there,” Erdogan said.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command denied that any foreign forces had crossed the border into Iraq.
“The operations command confirmed that the situation in Nineveh, Sinjar and the border areas was under the control of Iraqi security forces and there is no reason for troops to cross the Iraqi border into those areas,” it said in a statement.
Sources in Sinjar said there was no unusual military activity in the area Sunday.
The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades. Erdogan said last week they were creating a new base in Sinjar, and that Turkish forces would attack if necessary.
Sources in northern Iraq said Friday that the PKK would withdraw from Sinjar, where it gained a foothold in 2014 after coming to the aid of the Yazidi minority community, who were under attack by Daesh (ISIS) militants.
“We have decided to withdraw our guerrilla forces from Shengal,” the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), considered the PKK’s political branch, said in a statement using another name for Sinjar.
“Guerrillas intervened in Shengal in order to rescue the Ezidis [Yazidis] from genocide ... With this goal achieved, guerrillas are withdrawing from Shengal,” it added.
Local sources in the region said the PKK has 2,000 fighters deployed in the Sinjar area.
The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, has for decades been based in Iraq’s Qandil mountain range, near the border with Iran.
Turkish troops and their rebel allies swept into northwest Syria’s Afrin town this month, the culmination of an eight-week campaign to drive Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters from the region.
Turkey sees the YPG as terrorists and an extension of the outlawed PKK.