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Turkey Targets IS in Syria, PKK in Iraq

  • Dorian Jones

Image from aircraft cockpit video released by Turkey's state-run agency Anadolu, July 24, 2015, of what they report to be Turkish warplanes striking Islamic State group targets across the border in Syria.

Image from aircraft cockpit video released by Turkey's state-run agency Anadolu, July 24, 2015, of what they report to be Turkish warplanes striking Islamic State group targets across the border in Syria.

Two Turkish soldiers were killed and four were wounded late Saturday in a car bomb blast in a mainly Kurdish province in southeastern Turkey.

Earlier in the day, Turkish fighter jets hit Islamic State militant camps in Syria, while other airstrike hit the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel locations in northern Iraq. Turkish police have also arrested hundreds of suspected Kurdish and other militants across the country in recent days.

Turkish officials say the raids in Syria are aimed at creating a “safe zone” throughout a vast area of the northern part of the country.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saturday Turkey's security operations will continue as long as necessary. "These operations are not one-point operations and will continue as long as there is a threat against Turkey," Mr. Davutoglu said. "No one should doubt our determination. We will not allow Turkey to be turned into a lawless country."

PKK sources said Saturday the 2013 cease-fire with Turkey is basically over, ending after Turkish warplanes hit the Kurdish militants' strongholds in northern Iraq. Turkey said it was responding to the PKK's killing of two Turkish policemen earlier in the week.

A senior U.S. diplomat said Sunday on Twitter Turkey's strikes against the PKK do not affect a pact strengthening a U.S.-Turkey collaborative efforts against the Islamic State. "There is no connection between these air strikes against PKK and recent understandings to intensify U.S.-Turkey cooperation against ISIL," Tweeted Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the coalition to counter Islamic State.

Washington considers the PKK a terrorist group and has called on the rebels to renounce terrorism and resume peace talks with Turkey.

Commander of the Turkish Air Forces and Full General Akin Ozturk, left, briefs Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during a special security meeting on Islamic State in Syria and the PKK in Iraq, at Cankaya Palace, Ankara, July 25, 2015.

Commander of the Turkish Air Forces and Full General Akin Ozturk, left, briefs Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during a special security meeting on Islamic State in Syria and the PKK in Iraq, at Cankaya Palace, Ankara, July 25, 2015.

PKK sources said Saturday that the 2013 cease-fire with Turkey had basically ended after Turkish warplanes hit Kurdish militant strongholds in northern Iraq

Shilan Eminoglu, a representative of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), a PKK affiliate, also condemned the bombing of Kurdish camps.

Eminoglu said Turkey’s campaign would exacerbate Ankara's already poor diplomatic relations with the northern Iraqi region and beyond.

"Unfortunately it will have an impact on the whole Middle East, especially Iraqi Kurdistan, because any disagreements in Turkey will have consequences for Kurdistan,” Eminoglu said.

Peace accord

The strike against PKK targets in northern Iraq marked the first time Turkey had the Kurdish group there since the 2013 peace accord.

A government statement said Turkey's jets hit PKK shelters, bunkers, storage facilities and other "logistic points."

The PKK is one of several armed Kurdish groups fighting for an independent Kurdish state in southern Turkey and northern Iraq. Turkey and the United States consider the PKK a terrorist group.

Also Saturday, U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq destroyed an Islamic State site in Fallujah described as a car-bomb factory.

Pentagon officials said the Iraqi government helped coordinate the attack. A statement described the target as a critical Islamic State asset used to assemble car and truck bombs, said to be the militants' "weapon of choice" when attacking civilians and Iraqi forces.

Meanwhile, Islamic State militants detonated truck bombs in two villages in the Kurdish-controlled town of Tel Abyad, near the Syrian border.

The British-based Observatory for Human Rights said the attacks Saturday targeted Kurdish YPG militia checkpoints in the two villages, inhabited mostly by Arabs.

Air base use

It was announced this week that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would let American jets use the U.S.-operated Incirlik Air Base for combat missions against Islamic State.

He held telephone consultations with President Barack Obama this past week on relaxing Turkish restrictions on U.S. combat missions originating in Turkish territory.

Turkey has seen itself drawn into more cross-border clashes in recent weeks. Islamic State fighters in Syria and the Turkish military engaged in a skirmish Thursday that left at least one Turkish officer dead. And 32 people, mostly young activists preparing for an aid mission to Syria, were killed last Monday in a suicide bombing in Suruc, Turkey. The Turkish government blamed IS.

FILE - Dozens of Turkish F-16 jets prepare to take off during Anatolian Eagle exercise at 3rd Main Jet Air Base near the central Anatolian city of Konya.

FILE - Dozens of Turkish F-16 jets prepare to take off during Anatolian Eagle exercise at 3rd Main Jet Air Base near the central Anatolian city of Konya.

Hundreds of arrests

On Friday, Turkish officials said 251 people were arrested during massive raids at dawn nationwide, targeting both Islamic State and Kurdish militant groups. Hundreds more arrests were reported to have been made by Saturday.

More than 5,000 police officers, backed by helicopters, raided at least 100 locations across Istanbul, media reports said.

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