ANKARA,— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that airstrikes against Kurdish PKK-affiliated militants in Sinjar was coordinated with Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic party KDP leader Massoud Barzani, Reuters reported.
Turkey will not let northern Iraq’s Sinjar region become a base for Kurdish PKK militants and will continue military operations there and in Syrian Kurdistan (northern Syria) “until the last terrorist is eliminated,” Erdogan told Reuters on Tuesday.
“We are obliged to take measures. We must take steps. We shared this with the U.S. and Russia and we are sharing it with Iraq as well,” Erdogan said in an interview in the presidential palace in Ankara.
“It is an operation that Massoud Barzani has been informed about.”
Erdogan said he regretted the death of several members of the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces, also deployed in Sinjar, during the Turkish operation and made clear that Turkey’s action was “absolutely not an operation against the peshmerga”.
Turkish warplanes also bombarded the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northeastern Syria. The spokesman for the YPG said that 20 YPG members had been killed as a result of Turkish airstrikes in the Mount Karacok area of northeastern Syria.
In total Turkish warplanes hit 39 suspected positions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in a one-hour aerial bombardment on the mountains of Sinjar and Karacok.
Tensions between the Peshmerga force of the KDP party and the Shingal Protections Units (YBS), an armed group affiliated with the PKK based in the Yazidi region of Shingal (Sinjar), sharply escalated earlier in March when the two sides entered an armed confrontation.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the resulting conflict since then.
A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974, and has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.