Ankara: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday lambasted the US and NATO over their failure to respond to the killing of 13 Turkish citizens by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, considered by Ankara as a terrorist organization.
On Sunday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that the country’s armed forces carried out an operation in Iraq’s region of Gara and killing 48 PKK militants. The minister said that the bodies of 13 previously kidnapped Turkish citizens were found in a cave in the mountainous region.
“If we continue to maintain allied relations with you [the US] and with NATO, you cannot stand by to the terrorists. The hands of all who support the terrorists, who sympathize with them, are covered in the blood of their innocent victims. You all bear responsibility for the vile execution of 13 unarmed innocent people,” Erdogan said during a television appearance.
The president stressed that, following the incident, nobody was in a position to investigate the military operations that Turkey undertakes in Iraq and Syria.
“After the massacre in Gara, no country, no agency, no organization, no person can investigate Turkey’s operation in Iraq and Syria,” Erdogan said.
The president added that Turkey and Iraq have agreed to destroy the PKK.
The Turkish government has been fighting the PKK, a Kurdish far-left militant and political group that seeks Kurdish autonomy, since the early 1980s. The two sides signed a ceasefire agreement in 2013, but it collapsed just two years later over several terror attacks purportedly carried out by PKK militants.
Since the new outbreak of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in 2015, over 1,000 Turkey’s servicemen and 500 civilians have died in the PKK’s attacks. According to Turkey’s defense ministry, the country has neutralized over 10,000 militants of the PKK during this period. Since many PKK bases are located in northern Iraq, Ankara regularly conducts land and air operations in the area.