Turkish forces launched Operation Claw-Eagle on Sunday night, targeting PKK terrorists in northern Iraq, the Defense Ministry said.
The ministry said on Twitter Turkish fighter jets had destroyed caves where the terrorists were taking shelter and the caves had collapsed on them.
The jets destroyed at least 81 targets amid airstrikes against terrorists in northern Iraq in a fresh anti-terror mission dubbed Operation Claw-Eagle, according to a statement by the Defense Ministry.
Noting that the operation used domestically produced weapons and ammunition to a great extent, the ministry said on Twitter that it had "struck a major blow" against terrorists in northern Iraq's Sinjar, Qandil, Karacak, Zap, Avasin-Basyan and Hakurk regions.
"While planning and executing the operation, Turkish forces took great care to protect the lives and property of civilians, as well as the environment," added the ministry.
The Turkish jets safely returned to their bases following the operation, the statement further added.
Along with the jets, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and refueling aircraft also took part in the operation.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar phoned the pilots to thank them for completing the operation safely.
Akar added that the shelters where "terrorists were planning heinous attacks on our country, nation and bases" had been destroyed.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and the Turkish Armed Forces Command will be managing and dispatching operation Claw-Eagle from the Air Force Command Control Center.
Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler, Land Forces Commander Gen. Ümit Dündar, Air Forces Commander Gen. Hasan Küçükakyüz and Naval Forces Commander Adnan Özbal will also be among the personnel directing operations from the center.
“Regardless of the location, we will eradicate terrorist nests that endanger our country’s security. Terrorism and its backers will definitely lose,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalın said on Twitter late Sunday. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu the next day wrote: “Again, we dealt the terrorist organization in northern Iraq a heavy blow. I congratulate our soldiers who conducted Operation Claw-Eagle successfully. Our fight against terrorism will continue within our borders and across them decisively.”
Ankara has been warning the PKK to withdraw its forces from the Sinjar area for a long time now. Both Sinjar and Karacak are located some 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of the border with Turkey.
The ministry said Operation Claw-Eagle was launched in order to ensure the security of the Turkish people and the country's borders by eliminating the PKK and other terrorist organizations that have been stepping up their harassment and attack attempts against the police and military bases.
The PKK terrorist group managed to establish a foothold in Sinjar in mid-2014, on the pretext that it was protecting the local Yazidi community from Daesh. Since then, the PKK has reportedly established ground in Sinjar as a new base for its logistical and command-and-control activities.
Turkey has long been stressing that it will not tolerate terror threats posed against its national security and has called on Iraqi officials to take the necessary steps to eliminate the terrorist group. Ankara previously noted that if the expected steps are not taken, it would not shy away from targeting terror threats, particularly in Sinjar.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) regularly conducts cross-border operations in northern Iraq, a region where PKK terrorists have hideouts and bases from which to carry out attacks in Turkey. Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) also previously called the PKK's presence in Sinjar unacceptable and urged the militants to leave the area.
In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Turkish security forces have adopted “ending terrorism at its root” and “attack rather than defense” strategies through nonstop counterterrorism operations both across the country and through cross-border operations.