Turkey Launches Military Operation in Northern Iraq Against Kurds

Video published by the ministry defense showed helicopters landing commandos on mountainous terrain

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech at a rally of his ruling party in Istanbul, Turkey, March 5, 2019.
Lefteris Pitarakis,AP

Turkey's military launched an operation with commandos, backed by artillery and air strikes, against Kurdish militants in a mountainous area of northern Iraq, the defense ministry said on Tuesday.

The military action began with artillery and air strikes on Monday afternoon and the operation by commando brigades began at 8 pm (1700 GMT) to "neutralise terrorists and destroy their shelters", according to a ministry statement.

It said the operation targeted Iraq's Hakurk region, just across the border from Turkey's southeastern tip, which also borders Iran. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group is based in northern Iraq, notably in the Qandil region to the south of Hakurk.

Video published by the ministry showed helicopters landing commandos on mountainous terrain. It also shared photos showing shells fired by howitzers and soldiers perched on ridges, surveying hillsides with their rifles.

"The operation, with the support of our attack helicopters, is continuing as planned," the statement said. The military frequently launches air strikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq but ground operations are less common.

The PKK launched an insurgency in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict. It is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the European Union and United States.