Twin Turkish drone strikes killed seven militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported, citing authorities, as Ankara’s foreign minister visited the northern region.
Both strikes hit the mountainous Sidakan subdistrict, north of the regional capital Arbil, where the PKK maintains rear bases in its nearly four-decade-long insurgency against the Turkish military.
“A Turkish army drone struck a PKK vehicle, killing an official and two fighters,” the Kurdish counterterrorism services said in a statement on the earlier strike.
In the second attack, just hours later, “two PKK officials and two PKK emergency personnel were killed,” the counterterrorism services said.
The strikes came as Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan was in the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Arbil after he began his first official trip to Iraq on Tuesday.
Fidan met the Kurdish region’s president Nechirvan Barzani and prime minister Masrour Barzani, amid calls by Ankara for Baghdad to label the PKK a “terrorist” organization.
“We have settled this question in Turkey once and for all. Now the PKK is hiding in Iraqi territory. We are working with Baghdad and Arbil to protect Iraq from the PKK,” Fidan told a joint news conference with Masrour Barzani.
On Tuesday, Fidan had urged the federal government in Baghdad to brand the PKK a “terrorist” organization.
Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region has long been a target of Turkish air and ground operations against the PKK.
Turkey’s military rarely comments on individual strikes.
Both the Kurdish authorities in Arbil and the federal government in Baghdad have been accused repeatedly of not doing enough to stop Turkey’s frequent resort to military action on Iraqi soil in its nearly four-decade struggle against the PKK.
Statements condemning the violation of Iraqi sovereignty are periodically issued, particularly when there are civilian casualties.
But critics say both Arbil and Baghdad are more concerned with protecting trade and investment ties with Ankara.
On July 25, the office of Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani announced a forthcoming visit to Iraq by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but a date has yet to be set.