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The New Arab

Turkish troops move on Kurdish positions in Iraq

The Turkish incursion into Iraq came shortly after taking the Syrian city Afrin [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 March, 2018

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Clashes reportedly broke out between Turkish troops and PKK-aligned fighters in Iraq shortly after it was announced that Kurdish forces were expelled from Afrin in Syria.
Turkish forces have made incursions into Iraqi territory, within 20 kilometres of the town of Sidakan, and clashed with Kurdish forces. 

Iraqi officials in Baghdad and Dohuk province in Kurdistan, told The New Arab the incursion took place after militants affiliated with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) attacked Turkish forces on the borders. 

The clashes, lasting several hours, came shortly after the announcement that Turkish-backed forces have taken control of the northern Syrian city of Afrin, expelling Kurdish forces from the area.

Kurdish residents of nearby villages temporarily left their homes to escape the sounds of shelling and explosions, and reported seeing Turkish soldiers and tanks.

"The Turkish army plans to launch a large-scale attack on Kurdish positions in the Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian border triangle," said Ihsan Chalabi, an official from the Sidakan area, confirming the clashes.

Hama Amin, a member of the Kurdistan Alliance, expressed his belief in the existence of a deal between Haider al-Abadi’s government and Ankara which gave Turkey a "green light" to enter Iraq to target the PKK. He stressed the potential hypocrisy of this position, considering Baghdad’s opposition to Kurdish autonomy. 

"For months they say that everything in Iraq, including the borders, is the responsibility of the Baghdad government, they must see this Turkish incursion as a violation of sovereignty," he told The New Arab. 

Fighting between the Turkish security forces and the PKK has intensified since a two-year ceasefire collapsed in 2015.

The Turkish military often conducts air raids against PKK militants who have bases in the Qandil mountain area of Iraq, and troops sometimes stage incursions into the area.

Ankara on January 20 launched a cross-border air and ground operation in northern Syria supporting Syrian rebels against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.

Turkey says the YPG is a "terrorist" offshoot of the PKK, though the militia has been working with the United States against the Islamic State extremist group in Syria.

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