Turkish Forces Pursue Insurgents Near Iraq Border
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses journalists during a press conference in Ankara on Wednesday, hours after Kurdish rebels killed 24 Turkish soldiers. Photo by Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images.
Updated at 11:20 a.m. ET with statement from President Obama:
Turkish ground troops, backed by air support, launched an attack on militants inside of Iraq Wednesday, responding to an attack in which Kurdish rebels killed 24 soldiers and wounded 18 others. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters troops were in “hot pursuit” of the militants and that his country would “never bow to any attack from inside or outside Turkey.” Erdogan and his senior advisers gathered in Ankara for emergency meetings after cancelling a trip to Kazakhstan.
According to Turkish television, Turkey’s forces are roughly 2.5 miles inside of Iraq, echoing a similar ground incursion in 2008.
The separatist Kurdish Worker’s Party, known as the PKK, is based in northern Iraq and has been launching attacks on the Turkish government, since the 1980s. An estimated 40,000 people have died in the violence.
The insurgents launched the attack early Wednesday in the Hakkari and Bitlis provinces, part of a pattern of increased assaults in recent months but represented some of the heaviest casualties in recent memory. After an August attack that claimed nine Turkish soldiers, fighter planes targeted bases within northern Iraq in retaliation, killing 160 PKK fighters, Turkish officials said.
President Obama released a statement Wednesday saying:
“The United States strongly condemns this morning’s outrageous terrorist attack against Turkey, one of our closest and strongest allies. On behalf of the American people, I offer my condolences to the families of the victims and to all of the Turkish people.
“The United States will continue our strong cooperation with the Turkish government as it works to defeat the terrorist threat from the PKK and to bring peace, stability and prosperity to all the people of southeast Turkey. The people of Turkey, like people everywhere, deserve to live in peace, security and dignity. As they pursue the future they deserve, they will continue to have a friend and ally in the United States.”