July 25, 2015
Turkish warplanes launched attacks on camps of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq late July 24, Turkish and PKK sources said. The PKK confirmed the attacks on five military camps on Kandil mountain in northern Iraq. 'At around 11:00 pm tonight, Turkish warplanes started bombing our positions near the border, accompanied by heavy artillery shelling,' PKK spokesman in Iraq Bakhtiar Dogan told AFP.
Dogan also said that jets had flown over the Qandil mountains, an area north of the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil which the PKK's political leadership has been using as a safe haven, but had not conducted any strikes there.
The Turkish government regards the PKK party as a terrorist group. After a wave of violence around Turkey's border with Syria and Iraq this week, some of it claimed by the PKK but most by the Islamic State, the government had vowed to take retributive action.
The attacks on Kurdish targets followed air strikes into northern Syria, where Turkish jet fighters targetted IS bases. Turkey launched a second wave of attacks against IS at the same time it sent F-16 jets to hit PKK targets.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the first bombing operation against IS had '100 percent' achieved its goals and had 'successfully eliminated the targets.' The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said nine IS fighters were killed and 12 wounded.
The air raids were ordered in the wake of a suicide bombing blamed on IS that killed 32 activists on the Syrian border July 20, as well as cross-border clashes July 23 that claimed the life of a Turkish soldier.
'Turkey will show the strongest reaction to the slightest movement that threatens it,' Davutoglu said. 'The operation against IS reached its target and will not stop.'
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in televised comments that the security situation 'got out of control' in recent days and Turkey had to act. Turkey had been reluctant before to get embroiled in the wars engulfing its neighbors in Iraq and Syria.
In an apparent bid to crack down on all sources of violence, Turkish police swooped in on suspected IS and PKK offices in 16 provinces across Turkey, detaining nearly 300 people, including 37 foreigners.
The operation targeted suspected members of the PKK's youth wing, The Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement, and the Marxist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front.
Among those arrested in Istanbul was a senior local IS figure, Halis Bayancuk, who has the nom-de-guerre of Ebu Hanzala, the official Anatolia news agency said.
A female member of the Marxist group was killed in Istanbul in clashes with police during the raids, Turkish media said. The Hurriyet daily reported she had been readying a suicide bombing.
Erdogan said he informed U.S. President Barack Obama that Turkey would be taking action when the two talked by phone July 23. 'In our phone call with Obama, we reiterated our determination in the struggle against the separatist organisation and the Islamic State,' Erdogan said. 'We took the first step last night.'
After long being a reluctant partner in the U.S.-led coalition against IS, Turkey has also approved the use of its air bases by U.S. and coalition aircraft to mount strikes against militant group. Erdogan's critics say he is more concerned with keeping Syrian Kurdish fighters in check, afraid that gains they have made against IS in the Syrian civil war will embolden Turkey's own 14 million-strong Kurdish minority.
'Now he has all the excuses he needs to go after the Kurds, and also it makes him look very good in the eyes of the U.S., which will be happy that Turkey is on board in the coalition,' said Halil Karaveli, managing editor of The Turkey Analyst, a policy journal. Turkey informed the United Nations that it had started conducting air strikes in Syria against IS because the Syrian government was neither capable or willing to tackle the radical Islamist group.
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council, Turkey cited Article 51 of the UN Charter, which covers an individual or collective right to self-defense against armed attack, as justification for its action.
'It is apparent that the regime in Syria is neither capable of nor willing to prevent these threats emanating from its territory which clearly imperil the security of Turkey and safety of its nationals,' wrote Turkey's Deputy UN Ambassador Levent Eler in the letter.
'Syria has become a safe haven for [Islamic State]. This area is used by [Islamic State] for training, planning, financing and carrying out attacks across borders,' he wrote.
Sources: Reuters, AFP, and dpa