Turkey has flown special forces into the Iraqi Kurdish regional governorate for a ground operation against militants, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday according to thenational.ae.
The operation in Iraq’s Haftanin region, about 15 kilometres from the border, was launched following intense artillery fire into the area, the Turkish Defence Ministry said.
“Operation Claw-Tiger has begun,” it said on Twitter. “Our commandos, who are supported by combat helicopters and drones, have been transported by our air force,” it said.
The ministry did not say how many troops are involved but justified the operation as a response to “recent upsurge in attacks on our police stations and military bases” near the Iraqi border.
It said it also targets other “terror” groups in the region, but did not name them.
The move is likely to increase friction between Ankara and Baghdad, which on Tuesday summoned the Turkish ambassador to protest against Turkish air strikes on Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq this week.
Turkey regularly hits militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party operating out of Iraq but a ground operation is an escalation. The PKK has led a decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast region. It is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The conflict has led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives since it started in 1984.
The ground operation came days after Turkey launched an air operation in the region, which the Defence Ministry said hit suspected PKK targets in several locations in Iraq’s north, including Sinjar, and targeted 81 rebel hideouts.
The PKK and Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Governorate is yet to respond.
Baghdad has not commented on the latest escalation but earlier this week Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi chaired a meeting of the National Security Council in response to a massive round of air strikes by Turkey.
The Arab League also condemned Turkey’s actions. Ankara’s “military intervention in Arab lands, whether in Iraq, Syria or Libya, has become a cause for concern,” Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said yesterday.
Most Arab countries “disapproved of its military presence”, Mr Aboul Gheit said.
The Arab League’s council adopted a resolution in March in favour of a unified Arab approach towards Turkey and condemned Ankara’s continued intervention in Iraq.