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Turkish warplanes attack Kurdish fighters in Iraq, Syria

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By Reuters

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL -Dozens of Turkish warplanes and drones have attacked Kurdish militant training camps, shelters and ammunition storage areas in northern areas of Iraq and Syria, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

The air strikes are part of a continuing Turkish campaign in Iraq and Syria against militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, both of which Turkey regards as a terrorist group.

Some 60 aircraft took part in the operation, with the warplanes taking off from six air bases and backed up by tanker planes, an early warning and control aircraft and drones, defence ministry sources said.

Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the operation had been successful and that “many terrorists” were killed. “Only terrorists and targets belonging to terrorists were hit.”

Iraq’s military condemned what it called a Turkish infiltration into Iraqi air space as a violation of its sovereignty. Baghdad is widely viewed, however, to be giving Ankara free rein to attack the militants.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government.

All the planes taking part in the operation, which targeted the areas of Derik in northern Syria and Sinjar and Karacak in northern Iraq, subsequently returned to their bases, the defence ministry said. It did not provide any information on casualties resulting from the strikes.

It said militant headquarters, training camps, shelters, caves, tunnels and ammunition depots were targeted, but did not specify when the strikes occurred.

It said the air operation targeted PKK militants, which have bases in Iraq, as well as the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

Ministry sources said about 80 targets were destroyed in simultaneous strikes in the three areas, located between 9 km (6 miles) and 165 km (103 miles) beyond the Turkish border.

Iraqi security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said at least 20 air strikes were inside Iraq in the Sinjar mountain area.

Sinjar mountain, home to Iraq’s Yazidi minority, is an area controlled variously by different armed forces and armed groups where PKK militants and their local allies operate.

The Kurdistan region of Iraq’s counter-terrorism service said several people had been killed and injured in the air strikes in Iraq and Syria but provided no further details.

The PKK 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.

Turkish officials privately say they believe Baghdad is firmly on their side in fighting the PKK, which is also designated a terrorist group by the United States and European Union.