Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country’s military forces will continue aerial attacks against the positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group in Iraq's northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
“We have struck 10 critical points in Qandil. We have also finished off a number of [PKK] leaders who were in a meeting,” Erdogan said at an election campaign rally in Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkish forces were making progress in their military operation against PKK militants in northern Iraq, and had seized 400 square kilometers of land.
“The military operation against [the] PKK in the Qandil Mountains is progressing step by step,” Yildirim said in an interview with Turkish-language CNN Turk television news network.
“Turkish forces have advanced 40 kilometers in the area and established control there. It is estimated to be 400 square kilometers,” he added.
The Turkish prime minister then pointed to the recent Turkish airstrike against a gathering of high-profile PKK figures in the Qandil Mountains, saying, “An air raid was carried out on the terror network’s premises. We know that there are significant losses, and the details will become clear over time.”
The Turkish General Staff, in a statement released on June 17, announced that Turkish fighter jets had bombarded Qandil region, neutralizing 35 Kurdish militants in the process.
The Turkish military generally uses the term "neutralize" to signify that the militants were killed, captured or surrendered.
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.