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Turkey to drain north Iraq 'terror swamp' in PKK operation, says Erdogan

Erdogan made the comments less than two weeks ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 June, 2018

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Turkey's president has said his country will drain the "terror swamp" in northern Iraq in an operation against bases of outlawed Kurdish militants.

Turkey's president has said his country will drain the "terror swamp" in northern Iraq in an operation against bases of outlawed Kurdish militants.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the comments on Monday, Turkish daily Yeni Safak  reported, less than two weeks ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections.

"We've started anti-terror operations in Qandil and Sinjar. We've destroyed 14 important targets with our 20 aircraft," Erdogan told a rally, announcing the operation against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iraq's Qandil mountain area.

"Our target is to drain the biggest swamp," he said, adding that intense air strikes were far from over.

There has been growing expectation in Turkey that the government was preparing a major operation against the PKK in Qandil although Ankara has denied any link with the looming June 24 polls.

The Turkish army on Sunday had already announced it had hit 14 targets in air raids on Qandil.

A presidential source later specified that Erdogan's comments related only to Qandil and not Sinjar, another area in northern Iraq where the PKK has a presence.

Analysts say that a major operation against the PKK in northern Iraq would give Erdogan a welcome boost in the snap polls which are expected to be tighter than initially predicted.

But an extensive ground operation would also be fraught with risk, given the complex mountainous terrain of the Qandil region which is well known to the PKK but not the Turkish army.

It is in this area that the PKK's military leadership such as Murat Karayilan and Cemil Bayik are believed to be based.

Outlawed by Ankara and its Western allies, the PKK has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, and the army is battling the group's militants both inside Turkey and in northern Iraq.

Ankara earlier this year successfully carried out a major cross-border incursion into Syria along with allied Syrian rebels, taking the Afrin region in the northwest from a Kurdish militia.

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