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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Turkish soldiers drive deeper into Kurdish Iraq

Country regularly carries out operations in Kurdistan region of northern Iraq targeting the PKK, which it considers a terrorist group

PKK fighters stand at attention after arriving in the Heror area, northeast of Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. Ceerwan Aziz / AP
PKK fighters stand at attention after arriving in the Heror area, northeast of Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. Ceerwan Aziz / AP

Turkish troops have encroached further into Iraqi territory, advancing to at least 26 kilometres inside the country's Kurdish-controlled north.

“Our soldiers advanced between 26 to 27 kilometres in northern Iraq, and there is not much left to liberate in Qandil,” Turkish state-owned Anadolu agency reported on Saturday, citing Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.

On Friday, Turkish television showed images of Turkish troops speaking to civilians inside Barmiza, a Kurdish border village. Barmiza has been shelled by Turkish forces because of its closeness to PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) bases.

Baghdad has not retaliated against the Turkish presence in north Iraq, despite the frequency of the incursions.

In an attempt to ease tensions Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi in March reassured his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim that any attempt by "foreign fighters" to launch cross-border attacks against Turkey would be prevented by Iraq's armed forces.

Mr Al Abadi ordered his military to take full control of the country's borders amid escalating tensions between Ankara and the PKK.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, has for many years been based in Iraq's Qandil mountain range, near the border with Iran. Turkey regularly targets them with air strikes and shelling.

In March, Turkish jets attacked suspected PKK bases in northern Iraq, in an operation that reportedly "neutralised" nine militants. That same month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that operations had begun in Iraq's Sinjar region, where PKK fighters were based.

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