Three Turkish soldiers were killed with one injured in an explosion in southeastern province Şanlırurfa, near the Syrian border, the Turkish Defense Ministry said Saturday.
The ministry said in a written statement that the explosion occurred when the soldiers drove over an improvised explosive device (IED).
“We wish Allah’s mercy on our martyrs, who lost their lives in this incident that left us with deep pain and sadness. We wish our condolences and patience to their grieving families, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the nation,” the ministry added.
Turkish forces have launched three cross-border operations in the last five years, securing hundreds of kilometers of the border strip and pushing around 30 kilometers (20 miles) into northern Syria. Russian jets, Iran-backed fighters, Turkish-supported opposition groups, U.S. troops and Syrian regime forces also operate across the patchwork of territories in northern Syria, as well as the PKK's Syrian branch YPG. Despite its NATO ally Turkey's major security concerns, the United States views the YPG as a key ally in the fight against Daesh in northeast Syria. Russia has forces in the area to support the Assad regime.
Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful counterterrorism operations across its border in northern Syria – Euphrates Shield in 2016, Olive Branch in 2018 and Peace Spring in 2019. These operations all aimed to prevent the formation of a terrorism corridor and to enable the peaceful resettlement of residents.
The soldiers were driving along the border wall to Syria’s Tal Abyad when the explosion occurred, also causing damage to the wall itself. Security forces in the region took extensive measures after the attack and detected PKK/YPG positions in the west of Tal Abyad. Turkish forces stationed at the border then fired on said positions, according to a report by Demirören News Agency (DHA).
In these retaliatory attacks, 12 PKK/YPG terrorists were killed, the ministry said on Twitter later, adding that the operations in the region were still continuing.
Operations in the region against terror elements are ongoing, it added.
In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union -- has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK's Syrian offshoot.