Turkey launched airstrikes over northern regions of Syria and Iraq, the Turkish Ministry of National Defense said yesterday, targeting Kurdish groups that Ankara holds responsible for last week’s bomb attack in Istanbul.
Warplanes attacked bases of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG), the ministry said in a statement, which was accompanied by images of F-16 jets taking off and footage of a strike from an aerial drone.
There was no immediate comment from either group.
The ministry cited Turkey’s right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter in launching an operation it called Claw-Sword late on Saturday night.
It said it was targeting areas “used as a base by terrorists in their attacks on our country.”
Turkey said it was seeking to prevent attacks, secure its southern border and “destroy terrorism at its source.”
The airstrikes came after a bomb rocked a bustling avenue in the heart of Istanbul on Nov. 13, killing six people and wounding more than 80. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on the PKK and its Syrian affiliate, the YPG. The Kurdish militant groups have denied involvement.
Ankara and Washington consider the PKK a terror group, but disagree on the status of the YPG. Under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the YPG has been allied with the US in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.
The PKK has fought an armed insurgency in Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then.
Following the strikes, the defense ministry posted a photograph of an F-16 plane with the text: “Payback time. The scoundrels are being held to account for their treacherous attacks.” The Demiroren News Agency reported that the F-16s took off from airfields in Malatya and Diyarbakir in southern Turkey, while drones were launched from Batman.
Turkish Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar oversaw the airstrikes from an operations center and congratulated pilots and ground staff.
“Our aim is to ensure the security of our 85 million citizens and our borders, and to retaliate for any treacherous attack on our country,” a ministry statement quoted him as saying.
“Shelters, bunkers, caves, tunnels and warehouses belonging to terrorists were destroyed with great success... The so-called headquarters of the terrorist organization were also hit and destroyed with direct hits,” he said.
The airstrikes targeted Kobani, a strategic Kurdish-majority Syrian town near the Turkish border that Ankara had previously attempted to overtake in its plans to establish a “safe zone” along northern Syria.
Syrian Democratic Forces spokesperson Farhad Shami wrote on Twitter that two villages populated with displaced people were under Turkish bombardment.
He said the strikes had resulted in “deaths and injuries.”
Local media reported that the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar was also targeted.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the strikes had also hit Syrian army positions and that at least 12 people had been killed, including Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian soldiers.
The observatory said about 25 airstrikes were carried out by Turkish warplanes on sites in the countryside of Aleppo, Raqqa and Hasakah.
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