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Turkey launches new military offensive in northern Iraq

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By Joshua Askew  with AP
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, fright wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, visits Turkish troops at the border with Iraq, in Hakkari province, Turkey.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, fright wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, visits Turkish troops at the border with Iraq, in Hakkari province, Turkey.   -   Copyright  AP/Turkish Defense Ministry

Turkey has launched a new ground and air offensive against Kurdish militants in Iraq, Turkey's defence minister announced Monday.

Turkish warplanes, artillery and troops attacked targets belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, ranging from camps to ammunition stores.

The military operation - named "Operation Claw Lock" - was part of a long-running Turkish campaign in Iraq and Syria against militants of the PKK and Syrian Kurdish YPG, which Ankara regards as terrorist groups.

Jets and artillery struck shelters, bunkers, caves, tunnels, ammunition depots and headquarters belonging to the PKK, said Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in a video posted on the ministry’s website early Monday.

Turkish commandos - with the support of helicopters and drones - then crossed into the area by land or were flown in by helicopters.

"Our operation is continuing successfully as planned," the state-owned Anadolu news agency quoted Akar as saying. "The targets identified in the first phase have been captured."

No information on casualties was given or how many troops and warplanes participated in the action.

Turkey has conducted numerous cross-border aerial and ground operations against the PKK over the past decades, with the latest offensive taking place in the regions of Metina, Zap and Avashin-Basyan.

Turkey claims the PKK bases in northern Iraq are used to stage attacks on Turkish soil and launched Monday's operation following an assessment that the PKK was planning a large-scale attack, the ministry added.

The PKK, which has also been designated a terrorist organisation by the US and the European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which in the past was mainly focused in southeast Turkey.

“We are determined to save our noble nation from the terror misfortune that has plagued our country for 40 years,” Akar said. “Our struggle will continue until the last terrorist is neutralised.”

There was no immediate statement from the Kurdish group.