ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey launched the "Operation Claw 3" military campaign against fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on Friday, crossing over its southern border into the autonomous Kurdistan Region's province of Dohuk, Turkey’s National Defense Ministry announced the following day.
The operation aims “to destroy the terrorists and their caves and shelters in the Sinat-Haftanin region,” the statement read.
The PKK has been engaged in a decades-long insurgency against Ankara over Kurdish rights and self-rule since the 1980s in a conflict that has resulted in the death of over 40,000 people on both sides. Headquartered in the Kurdistan Region's Qandil Mountains, the group is designated as a “terrorist organization” by Turkey, the EU, and the US.
The statement added that the campaign is supported by Turkey’s Air Force, Army Aviation, ground troops equipped with howitzers, and both armed and unarmed drones.
Operation Claw was first launched on May 27 inside areas of the Kurdistan Region that border Turkey. Since then, both the PKK and Turkish forces have claimed to inflict dozens of casualties on the other.
In the past decade, Turkey has regularly shelled the Kurdistan Region's border areas to target fighters of the PKK in rural mountainous terrain, but the operation has intensified this year and widened in terms of territory covered. In some areas, Turkish forces have mobilized as far as 30 kilometers deep into its southern neighbor's land.
Over the past few years, as residents and the environment continue to suffer from the clashes, including multiple civilian deaths and other casualties, both locals and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have repeatedly asked the PKK and the Turkish government to take their fight elsewhere.
Last month, videotaped confessions released by Kurdistan Region security forces showed suspects in a highly-publicized July 17 assassination of a Turkish diplomat in the region's capital of Erbil confessing that it had been planned and carried out by PKK members.
Along with confessions of multiple alleged accomplices, officials also released CCTV footage of the attack showing Erbil-based Turkish diplomat Osman Kose dining at an upscale restaurant when three gunmen sitting at other tables suddenly stand up, take out handguns while they approach Kose, and shoot him. Two local residents were also killed in the brazen daytime shooting.
Editing by John J. Catherine