Turkey is mourning for three Turkish soldiers, who were killed by PKK terrorists in southeastern Turkey over the past week, while operations against the terrorist group continue.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday extended his condolences to the families of the three soldiers and to the Turkish nation.
Erdoğan, on Twitter, expressed sorrow for Atakan Arslan, a police officer killed in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır in an armed attack, as well as soldiers Uğur Bora and Mehmet Günay, who were killed in clashes in the southeastern province of Hakkari.
"Our fight against terrorism will continue uninterruptedly and resolutely until the terror threat to our country ends and the last terrorist is neutralized," he said.
Besides Erdoğan, other top officials in the country have also conveyed their condolences to the families of the soldiers.
Police officer Arslan was killed as a result of an armed attack. Stopping a car for routine controls, Arslan was shot by one of the car's passengers and succumbed to his wounds in the hospital.
On Sunday, a suspect accused of killing Arslan was detained by security forces in Diyarbakır.
In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and European Union, has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Turkish security forces regularly conduct counterterrorism operations in the eastern and southeastern provinces of Turkey where the PKK has attempted to establish a strong presence.
Turkish security forces have adopted “ending terrorism at its root” and “attack rather than defense” strategies through its operations across the country.
Some 122,054 operations, including 116,650 in rural areas, targeted PKK terrorists in 2019 alone and have successfully detained and killed top PKK figures.
According to Interior Ministry data, there were 835 to 1,995 PKK terrorists in January 2017, while the number dropped to between 1,100 and 1,200 by January 2018, 755 to 876 in January 2019 and under 500 in January 2020, equating to an 83% drop over four years and the lowest figures in three decades.
More importantly, while around 5,558 terrorists joined the PKK in 2014, this number fell to 130 in 2019 and to 13 in the first five months of 2020, a whopping 70% drop year-on-year.
There has also been a surge in the number of terrorists laying down arms and surrendering to Turkish security forces following these series of successful domestic and cross-border anti-terror operations. Almost 50 terrorists have surrendered to Turkish forces since the beginning of 2020.
6 terrorists killed in northern Iraq
During the operations against the terrorist group on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said that three terrorists were killed in eastern Bitlis province.
The ministry said security authorities conducted an air-backed operation in Bitlis as part of domestic security operations.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu also confirmed the killing of the terrorists in a social media statement.
Later in the day, a statement from Turkey's Ministry of the Interior revealed that two of the suspects who were killed were listed in the gray category of the ministry's most wanted terrorists list with a bounty of TL 500,000 ($73,300) on their heads. The ministry also stated that one of the terrorists was "Kendal," code-named Veysel Altun, who was a suspected perpetrator of an attack in Bitlis last month that took the life of Gendarmerie Major Zafer Akkuş.
"Your revenge has been taken, rest in peace hero Gendarmerie Major Zafer Akkuş," said Soylu from his Twitter account, confirming the killing of the terrorist. Previously, on July 20, Soylu attended the funeral of the major in the northern province of Samsun.
The other gray category terrorist who was killed was Adem Çelebi, code-named "Şoreş Tatvan."
The wanted list is divided into five color-coded categories, with red as the most wanted, followed by blue, green, orange and gray.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) also carry out cross-border operations in northern Iraq, a region where PKK terrorists have hideouts and bases where they carry out attacks on Turkey. The operations intensified in July 2018 and gradually became routine.
Turkish jets killed three PKK terrorists in northern Iraq, the country's National Defense Ministry announced late Saturday.
The terrorists were killed in airstrikes in the Haftanin and Zap regions after they were detected through reconnaissance and surveillance activities, the ministry said on Twitter.
"Our operations will continue until the last terrorist is neutralized," it added.
PKK terrorists often take shelter in northern Iraq to plan cross-border terrorist attacks in Turkey.
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