Thirteen Turkish civilians have been murdered by Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, according to Turkey’s Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar. The civilians were found dead in one of the hideouts of the notorious PKK during a military operation which also killed three Turkish soldiers and 48 Kurdish insurgents. The discovery of the dead civilians during Claw-Eagle 2 sparked strong reactions from Turkish politicians, with ruling Justice and Development party spokesman calling it an ‘attack against the whole of humanity’.
Despite finding the 13 civilians, all of whom Turkey claims had been previously abducted by the PKK, Turkey has called the operation a success. ‘With the operation carried out mostly using domestically developed weaponry, the terror group was dealt a heavy blow in the [Gara] region,’ Akar said of the attack, during which more than 50 terror targets (including ammunition depots) were destroyed.
The PKK seeks to create an independent Kurdish state and is designated as a terrorist organisation by both Turkey, which bears most of the brunt of the group’s operations, and many members of the international community. Turkey has been in conflict with the group since 1978, and it is said that between 55,000 and 60,000 people have been killed in the over 40 years of violence. Yet, despite the high number of casualties, the PKK is still believed to have thousands of members, with estimates ranging from 4,000 to 32,800.
The conflict looks set to continue for a significant period of time, as Kurdish groups now control a large part of Northern Syria, which they have called Rojava, and the PKK has gained a foothold in Northern Iraq by protecting local Yazidis from ISIS. However, even Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has said that the PKK being in Sinjar (a province in Iraq) is ‘unacceptable’, and it has urged the insurgents to leave the area.
The bodies were discovered whilst a cave was being searched, and according to Akar ‘In a first inspection it was determined that 12 of our innocent and unarmed civilians were shot in the head and martyred and one shot in the shoulder and martyred.’. The PKK denies killing them, though Turkey claims that two terrorists they captured told them they were killed at the start of the Claw-Eagle 2 military operation.
Claw-Eagle 2 lasted from 10th February until 14th February and was designed to both weaken the PKK in northern Iraq and secure the Turkish-Iraqi border. It took place in a 75 by 25 kilometre area and, by all accounts, was largely successful, with only three dead and three wounded Turkish soldiers. The PKK was apparently hit hard during the operation, with Turkey claiming that its troops killed high-level terrorists.
‘[The PKK] attacks Turkish and Iraqi security forces and civilians. It continues its terrorist attacks in northern Syria. The world is silent. This silence is a shameful act of complicity. But we will not remain silent,’ wrote presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on Twitter.