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Qandil offensive criticized by opposition as political campaigning

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A planned Turkish military offensive in the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq against the headquarters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been slammed by critics and the opposition as a campaign strategy for upcoming elections in Turkey on June 24.

Pro-government journalist Abdülkadir Selvi on Wednesday described the details of the offensive in a column for the Hürriyet daily.

The Turkish army has been making preparations for the offensive since March, and yesterday Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said, “Turkey could be entering Qandil soon.”

On the other hand, deputies from the opposition parties criticized the anticipated Qandil operation as government propaganda to boost its support in the election.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Özgür Özel said the government admitted that it would not win the elections and so put the spotlight on the military, while Aytun Çıray of the İYİ (Good) Party said even though they supported every move involved in counterterrorism, the Qandil offensive would be an election campaign rather than an actual military advance.

Çıray also claimed that the PKK had moved its forces from Qandil and sent them to Syria for training, so the Turkish army would be entering an empty camp.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair Sezai Temelli said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would use the dead bodies of young soldiers expected to come after the military operation in order to garner more support.

According to columnist Selvi, the Turkish army has already proceeded 20 to 25 kilometers inside Iraq from the border and been conducting an operation to contain the area surrounding the mountains in order to cut off support channels from Syria.

Turkey has also been planning a massive airstrike before the full offensive.

The PKK’s camp in the Qandil Mountains is some 90 kilometers from the Turkish border. Although the mountains are in northern Iraq, it has a strategic location that is accessible from both Iran and Syria.

“As has already been said, contacts regarding Qandil are ongoing with Iraq, Iran and the US, and a massive military offensive is on the way,” wrote Selvi.

According to the Hürriyet report, Iran has not yet allowed the Turkish army to conduct a military operation in its territory.

A spokesperson for the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) told the BBC Turkish service that they have not emptied the camp in Qandil and that they are ready to defend it.

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