Four Turkish soldiers were killed and three others were injured in a clash with Kurdish militants during Turkey’s Operation Claw-Lock in northern Iraq, local media reported, citing Turkey’s Defense Ministry.
Operation Claw-Lock, an air and ground offensive that targets hideouts of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Metina region of Iraq, was launched on April 18.
The ministry said in a written statement on Tuesday that the clash with the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US, took place in the Zap region in northern Iraq on Tuesday. It said the injured soldiers were rushed to a hospital while offering condolences to the families of the slain soldiers.
Operation Claw-Lock was launched two days after a rare visit to Turkey by Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, suggesting that he had been briefed on Ankara’s plans.
Barzani said after his talks with President Recep Tayyip 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.
Erdoğan also announced on Monday that Turkey was planning to launch a new military operation in northern Syria to secure its southern border.
The Turkish president is accused by his critics of fomenting nationalism in the country through such military operations in neighboring Syria and Iraq ahead of the 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections to win more public support.
Opinion polls show Erdoğan and his election ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), losing considerable public support amid the rising cost of living and a record annual inflation of around 70 percent.