Turkish fighter jets neutralized 14 PKK terrorists during a counter-terrorism operation in northern Iraq, the National Defense Ministry said on Tuesday morning.
Airstrikes were carried out in the Gara region as part of the ongoing Operation Claw, the ministry said on Twitter.
Turkish authorities often use the term "neutralized" in statements to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.
The first Operation Claw, which was launched on May 27, aimed to prevent the infiltration of PKK terrorists onto Turkish soil from Hakurk and spoil their settlement plans in the area.
On July 13, Turkey launched Operation Claw-2 as a follow-up on the successfully ongoing Claw-1, which revealed new information on terrorist activities, according to the ministry.
The Hakurk region is among the main locations PKK terrorists use to infiltrate Turkey or attack Turkish border outposts. The area is located 30 to 40 kilometers south of the Derecik district of southeastern Hakkari province, bordering Iraq, and currently serves as the main base for terrorists between their headquarters in the Qandil mountains near the border with Iran and Turkey.
The Hakurk area facilitates terrorist crossings between Qandil and Iraq's Salahuddin province that borders Syria, where the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the People's Protection Units (YPG), control large swathes of territory.
The Qandil mountains, located roughly 40 kilometers southeast of the Turkish border in Iraq's Irbil province, are being used as a headquarters by the PKK and its Iranian affiliate, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), although the area is under de jure control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The area has frequently been hit by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in the last decade, yet a ground operation had not been launched in recent years. Qandil became the PKK's main headquarters in the 1990s after it used the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon as training grounds for many years.
Turkey had previously warned the KRG and Iraqi governments numerous times about eliminating the PKK's presence to maintain Turkey's border security. Despite top officials from both governments expressing their discomfort with PKK camps and activities, saying that they won't allow militants to attack Turkey from their soil, no serious action was taken in this regard.
With no concrete results from Iraq and the KRG, Turkey decided to take matters into its own hands and assumed a hard stance against the PKK presence in northern Iraq.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children.