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PKK kills Turkish soldier in northern Iraq as Ankara threatens major offensive

The militant group killed one Turkish soldier and wounded four others in northern Iraq, as Turkey threatened a major offensive to "annihilate" the Kurdish militant group by summer.
A photograph taken on Oct. 22, 2011, shows a Turkish military helicopter flying over a mountain in Yemisli, in the Hakkari province

A Turkish soldier was killed and four others were injured in a clash on Tuesday with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, as Ankara threatened to launch a major assault to cripple the militant group that has been waging an armed campaign against Turkey since 1984.

The Turkish Ministry of Defense said that six PKK members were also killed in the clashes that took place in the harsh mountainous region inside northern Iraq that lies south of the majority Kurdish provinces of Hakkari and Sirnak in Turkey. The Turkish military, which says it will "annihilate" the militants by summer, has since 2022 been conducting Operation Claw Lock in the area where PKK fighters maintain a strong presence. 

The news came as Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan issued fresh warnings to Iraqi Kurdish political leader Bafel Talabani to sever ties with the PKK. Talabani, who has close ties to Iran and its Shiite allies in Baghdad, heads the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which shares power in the Kurdistan Regional Government. The PUK governs the Sulaimaniyah region, which lies in the southeastern part of Iraqi Kurdistan that borders Iran.

Speaking during a live broadcast on Monday, Fidan described the PUK’s “cordial” relations with the PKK as “a national security threat,” adding that Ankara had told the group numerous times to sever its ties with the PKK. It has matched its words with actions, banning commercial flights between Turkey and Sulaimaniyah's international airport since April 3 of last year on the grounds that the PKK had free rein over the province. In a major escalation last September, Turkey attacked the Arbat airport in Sulaimaniyah, killing three members of the PUK’s elite counterterrorism force. Turkey did not claim responsibility, but the Foreign Ministry asserted that PKK “terrorists” were training alongside the PUK at the airport, as allegations that the pair were producing drones at Arbat swirled around.

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