Turkish fighter jets have launched airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, two days after a Turkish diplomat was killed in an armed attack on a restaurant in the area.
“Following the evil attack in Erbil, we have launched the most comprehensive air operation on Qandil and dealt a heavy blow to the (Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)) terror organization,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.
Turkish consulate employee Osman Köse was killed on July 17, when attackers made their move while the Turkish diplomats asked for check at HuQQabaz, a popular restaurant in an upscale and high-security area only a five-minute drive from the Turkish mission on the airport road in Erbil – the seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
One of the attackers directly targeted the Turkish diplomat at close range, firing a gun with a silencer. Meanwhile, the other attacker began to shoot towards two Iraqi customers. One of them died immediately and the other died in the hospital.
The Turkish defense chief further said targets such as “armaments positions, lodgings, shelters and caves belonging to terrorists” were destroyed.
“Our fight against terror will continue with increasing determination until the last terrorist is neutralized and the blood of our martyrs will be avenged,” Akar noted.
PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.
Turkey, along with the European Union and the United States, has declared the PKK a terrorist group and banned it. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.
A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.
Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.
More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the autonomy-seeking militant group.
Gunman behind Erbil attack identified
Furthermore, KRG authorities said on Thursday that they had identified one of the gunmen involved in the deadly armed attack in Erbil.
Police shared a photo of the alleged attacker, identified as Mazlum Dag (shown in the picture below), and asked local residents to help turn him in.
The report came as Dersim Dag, one of Mazlum Dag’s brothers, is a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which the Turkish government accuses of affiliation to the PKK.
Two of Dag’s other brothers, identified as Ibrahim and Lutfi respectively but better known by the noms de gurre Isyan and Numan, had links to the PKK terror group, according to Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency.