Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that three Turkish soldiers have been killed so far in Operation Claw-Lock, the air and ground offensive against outlawed Kurdish militants in northern Iraq that was launched on April 18, the Demirören News Agency (DHA) reported on Friday.
The operation targets outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) hideouts in the Metina, Zap and Avashin-Basyan regions of Iraq. Designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the EU and the US, the PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Addressing reporters in İstanbul following Friday prayers, the president said three Turkish soldiers and 45 Kurdish militants had been killed thus far in the offensive.
The president added that the destruction of caves and other critical targets in the region was ongoing, expressing his hope that the operation will be successfully completed with minimum loss.
Following Erdoğan’s announcements, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener offered their condolences to the families of the soldiers and the Turkish nation.
Operation Claw-Lock was launched two days after a rare visit to Turkey by the prime minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, Masrour Barzani, suggesting that he had been briefed on Ankara’s plans.
Barzani said after his talks with President Erdoğan that he welcomed “expanding cooperation to promote security and stability” in northern Iraq.
The government of Iraq’s Kurdistan has an uneasy relationship with the PKK militants, whose presence complicates the region’s lucrative trade ties with Turkey.
But the offensives have added strains to Ankara’s ties with Iraq’s central government in Baghdad, which accuses Turkey of failing to respect the war-torn country’s territorial integrity.