ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said an operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has begun in the Qandil mountains on the Iraq-Iran border and the Yezidi-Kurdish homeland of Sinjar (Shingal), which is under the control of Iraqi forces.
“We destroyed 14 important targets using 20 of our [war] planes. They hit [their targets], they returned. We are not done. This will continue,” the Turkish President boasted during an election rally in the Central Anatolian city of Nigde as the country prepares to head to the polls in less than two weeks.
Turkey has, in recent weeks, widened the scope of its military incursions into the Kurdistan Region’s PKK-held border areas.
There was no confirmation from the PKK, Yezidi organizations, the Erbil or Baghdad governments regarding the strikes Erdogan claimed hit Shingal.
“O’ Chief, take us to Qandil,” his supporters chanted at an event held by his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), according to a report by state media.
“Hopefully after June 24, if need be, I will be first, and you after me,” he replied to those who demanded to be enlisted to fight in Qandil, an extremely rugged mountain range with peaks as high as 3,587 meters (11,768 ft) which serves as the PKK’s headquarters.
He went on to accuse his rival in the presidential elections, Muharrem Ince, of “not being as concerned in fighting terrorism.”
“We don't care about Muharrem,” he said, using the opponent's first name. “Wherever terrorists go, we will be after them. We have surpassed 4,500 in Afrin,” he added.
Erdogan was referring to what he asserts is the casualty number for the US-armed Kurdish forces defending Syrian Kurdistan’s northwestern Afrin enclave, which Turkey invaded earlier this year.
Erdogan did not elaborate on the details of the alleged strikes in Shingal.
The town garnered worldwide attention in 2014 when the Islamic State (IS) group embarked on a genocidal campaign against the ethnoreligious Yezidi (Ezidi) minority, massacring thousands of their men, kidnapping and sexually enslaving thousands of other women and children.
The PKK found a foothold in the area when it came down from the mountains to help drive out IS militants from Shingal alongside the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces and US-led Coalition.
On March 21, Erdogan said military operations had started in Shingal and that Turkey had “neutralized” 38 PKK fighters there in a statement that remained unconfirmed by the army.
Last week, the Turkish President threatened to strike the Makhmour refugee camp, 40 miles southwest of Kurdistan Region’s capital Erbil, where over 12,000 Kurdish refugees who fled Turkey currently live.
Editing by Nadia Riva