Turkey launches operation against Kurdish militants in Iraq, Syria: Defense minister

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Turkey launched on Sunday Operation Claw-Sword air raids against outlawed Kurdish militants in Iraq and Syria almost a week after a deadly blast in central Istanbul, the defense minister said.

“We are starting Operation Claw-Sword from now on,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said before the planes left their bases to hit the targets. A defense ministry statement said he directed the offensive from the air force operations center with top commanders.

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The defense ministry later on Sunday said that 89 targets, including shelters and ammunition depots, were destroyed in air strikes on Kurdish militant bases in northern Iraq and northern Syria.

The strikes had targeted Qandil, Asos and Hakurk in Iraq and Kobani, Tal Rifat, Cizire and Derik in northern Syria, it said, adding that “so-called directors of the terrorist organization were among those neutralized.”

The defense ministry had earlier said that the raids targeted bases of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers an extension of the PKK.

The attacks come days after Ankara blamed the PKK for a deadly bombing in central Istanbul last week which killed six people and wounded more than 80.

No group has claimed responsibility for bombing on the busy pedestrian avenue, and the PKK and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have denied involvement.

A spokesman for the SDF said that the Turkish strikes had destroyed infrastructure including grain silos, a power station and a hospital. Eleven civilians, including a journalist, died, said Farhad Shami, head of the SDF media center on Twitter.

The SDF said in a statement they would retaliate for the strikes. “These attacks by the Turkish occupied forces will not go without a response,” it said.

Separately, a Syrian military source told state media SANA that a number of servicemen had been killed in “Turkish aggression on Syrian land” on Sunday morning, in the countryside near northern Aleppo and Hasaka.

Akar said in a statement that all necessary measures were taken to avoid damage to innocent people and the surroundings, adding that “only and only terrorists and structures belonging to terrorists were targeted.”

“The claws of our Turkish armed forces were once again on the top of the terrorists.”

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