June 16, 2018 / 7:36 PM / 6 months ago

Turkish warplanes strike Kurdish militants in Iraq's Qandil, Erdogan says

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish warplanes have struck a meeting of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Iraq’s Qandil mountains, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, adding that Ankara believed high-profile militants had been hit.

The Turkish military has ramped up air strikes in northern Iraq targeting PKK bases in Qandil, close to the Iraq-Iran border, where Ankara suspects high-ranking members of the militant group are located.

The government has also said Turkish troops have deployed roughly 30 km (nearly 20 miles) inside northern Iraq, not far from Qandil.

Speaking in an interview with Kanal 7 television, Erdogan said Turkish warplanes had struck a meeting point in the Qandil mountains where high-ranking members of the PKK were thought to be. The military would announce the outcome of the air strikes in the coming hours, he said.

“With the latest operations, we struck a very important meeting point of theirs. We haven’t received the results yet, but it is certain that they have been hit,” Erdogan said.

Ankara has recently stepped up its warnings of a potential ground offensive in the Qandil mountains. Erdogan said he had discussed the issue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and that the two agreed to maintain regional security.

Northern Iraq’s Qandil mountains are situated close to the border between Iran and Iraq. Tehran holds significant influence over Iraq’s central government in Baghdad.

Turkey has also been in talks with Iraq about the potential offensive but Erdogan said on Saturday that Ankara will wait to see a new government formed in Baghdad following May’s election there before continuing talks.

An offensive against the PKK in Qandil would mark Turkey’s third cross-border operation since 2016, with the first two targeting Kurdish militia fighters in northern Syria. Turkish forces cleared large swathes of land along Turkey’s southeastern border as part of its operations into Syria.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans

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