ANKARA, Oct 6, (Agencies): Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday vowed to “finish” Kurdish militants in Iraq’s Sinjar and Qandil regions to avenge eight Turkish soldiers killed in a bomb attack in southeastern Turkey earlier this week. On Wednesday, eight Turkish soldiers were killed and two were wounded after a roadside bomb in the southeastern province of Batman was detonated by outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.
Speaking to members of his ruling AK Party at the start of a two-day summit in the outskirts of Ankara, Erdogan said the PKK would pay the price for the eight soldiers. “Do we have eight martyrs? Then let those terrorists know that they will pay the price for this with at least 800,” he said. “We will finish them by going into their dens, their holes. We will end them in Sinjar and in Qandil.”
The comments marked Erdogan’s strongest warning of a potential offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq in recent weeks. Turkey has in recent months carried out strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq, especially its stronghold in the Qandil mountains, but warnings of a ground offensive into the area had largely died down following the June elections.
The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by the United States, Turkey and the European Union, has waged an insurgency against the state since Turkish in the 1980s. Violence in the largely Kurdish southeast has worsened since the collapse of a ceasefire in 2015 and the government has carried out widespread operations to capture the militants in Turkey as well.
Over the past two days, Turkish authorities have detained 137 people over suspected links to the PKK in operations across the nation, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday. At least one person was killed and 14 wounded when a bus carrying workers at a small oil refinery in northern Iraq was blown up by an improvised explosive device, police said. The bus was at the Siniya refinery, near Iraq’s largest oil refinery of Baiji in the predominantly Sunni Salahuddin province, when it exploded, Baiji police said on Saturday.
Separately, three civilians and a policeman were injured when a parked car exploded in a market area in Fallujah within the western, also Sunni, Anbar province, security sources said. No group has claimed responsibility for either attack, but Islamic State militants are active in both provinces. Iraqi forces declared victory over the hardline Sunni Islamist group in December after retaking all the territory it held in a four-year war, but its fighters are waging a guerrilla-style insurgency. Security sources said the attack in Fallujah was the first since Iraqi forces retook the city from the militants in 2016. It came only after Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an umbrella network of mostly Shi’ite militias, started operating within the city, residents and tribal leaders said. PMF forces have long been stationed at checkpoints around the city and in the entire province but had not entered the city proper before.