Turkey retaliates at home, abroad after troops killed in Iraq

Turkey said on Monday its air force "neutralised" 26 Kurdish militants in strikes in Syria and northern Iraq in response to the killing of soldiers at the weekend, while authorities also detained dozens of pro-Kurdish opposition activists.

Publication: 25.12.2023 - 14:39
Turkey retaliates at home, abroad after troops killed in Iraq
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On Saturday, the defence ministry said 12 Turkish soldiers were killed during fighting with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, prompting Ankara to conduct a barrage of air strikes and operations in the region.

On Monday, it said initial findings showed that at least 26 militants were "neutralised" in those strikes. Ankara typically uses the term to mean killed.

Defence Minister Yasar Guler also said on Sunday that 30 PKK militants had been neutralised in an area of northern Iraq where Turkey carries out cross-border operations, bringing the total number of militants killed since the weekend to 56.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. Turkish forces regularly carry out strikes in neighbouring Iraq as part of its offensive against PKK militants based there.

Police also detained 52 people at a youth event organised by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party (DEM) -formerly known as HDP - in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, security sources said on Monday.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said on social media platform X that the suspects were charged with "praising crime and the criminal" and "spreading terrorist organisation propaganda", and added arrest warrants were issued for others.

In response, DEM - the third biggest party in parliament - condemned the detentions as motivated by political interests and called for the detainees to be released immediately.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya later said that authorities had started investigations into 57 social media accounts accused of posting content against Turkey's armed forces, and added four people had been detained as part of the operation.

"Those trying to sow seeds of discord among our people, praise terror, and insult our national and moral values will continue to be held accountable in front of the law," Yerlikaya said on X.

President Tayyip Erdogan and his government have repeatedly accused the pro-Kurdish opposition party of having links to the PKK, and authorities have arrested dozens of its officials over recent years. The party denies accusations of militant links.