Turkish military ‘neutralises’ 21 PKK members in northern Iraq, Syria

Turkish armed forces ‘neutralised’ 21 Kurdish militants in the last 24 hours in ongoing military operations in northern Iraq and Syria, the Turkish Defence Ministry announced on Saturday.

Turkey uses the term ‘neutralise’ to mean enemy combatants killed or captured in battle.

Between mid-June and early September, the Turkish military has carried out operations Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle, two segments of a larger campaign in northern Iraq against the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for decades.

Turkey also targets the mainly-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian militia which it claims is an offshoot of the PKK.

PKK is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, while the YPG has received support from the latter two as the U.S.-led coalition’s main ground force against the Islamic State (ISIS).

Turkey’s military presence in Syria has continued uninterrupted since the launch of Operation Peace Spring in October last year, most recently in the form of support for occupying Syrian militias in several provinces and joint patrols with Russia along the strip of land along the border taken over from Kurdish groups.

The most recent operations have brought the tally of the last 10 days to 118 PKK and YPG members killed by the Turkish armed forces, the ministry said in its Saturday statement.

Last week, the Defence Ministry announced 320 militants were ‘neutralised’ as part of Operation Claw-Tiger.

State-run Anadolu news agency reported in August that Turkey ‘neutralised’ 1,250 PKK members in 2019 and another 506 in 2020, bringing the five-year body count to 8,650.

In the last five years, Turkish forces have captured 2,762 PKK members and 1,781 others surrendered, Anadolu said. Ninety two PKK members surrendered in 2020, while efforts to convince members of 12,615 families to leave the PKK continue, it said.

Turkish forces carried out 67,985 operations against the PKK in 2020, Anadolu said, citing an unnamed security source.

Some 75,453 people have been detained in Turkey in the last five years on terrorism charges, 19,018 of whom were arrested and imprisoned.