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Erdogan Says Turkey Will Soon “Stomp” on Militants in Northern Iraq

Erdogan Says Turkey Will Soon “Stomp” on Militants in Northern IraqErdogan Says Turkey Will Soon “Stomp” on Militants in Northern Iraq

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday threatened to soon crush militants in northern Iraq, after his foreign minister last week said Ankara and Baghdad would carry out a joint offensive against Kurdish militants in Iraq.

“We are checking the terror nests in northern Iraq at every chance. Soon, we will stomp very strongly on the terrorists there,” Erdogan told local administrators in Ankara, Reuters reported.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that Turkey and Iraq’s central government could start a joint military operation against Kurdish militants after Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2018.

Turkish warplanes regularly launch strikes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has camps in the mountains of northern Iraq, near the border with Turkey.

Last week, Turkish warplanes destroyed at least 18 targets belonging to PKK militants in northern Iraq over the weekend, the state-run Anadolu news agency said on March 11.

The strikes, carried out on March 10 and 11, targeted the Hakurk, Zap, Metina, Gara and Avasin-Basyan regions of northern Iraq, Anadolu said, citing the Turkish military.

The General Staff statement said that the PKK militants were plotting an attack on the Turkish military and their bases in the region.

Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, where the group is based in the Qandil Mountains.

Turkey and Iraq are in close talks for a potential joint struggle against the presence of the PKK in Iraqi territories, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on March 9, a day after Cavusoglu announced that Iraq was the Turkish military’s next target after the ongoing Afrin operation.

“[Cross-border] operations will be conducted in northern Iraq when necessary. We are in close contact with the Iraqi government on this,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters on March 9.

  Imminent Capture

Meanwhile, Erdogan said he hoped Turkey’s military and its rebel allies would completely capture the northern Syrian town of Afrin by Wednesday evening, a day after the armed forces said it had encircled the town.

He also said civilians in Afrin town were being evacuated in cars through a special corridor, as Turkish forces made substantial advances against Kurdish fighters in their nearly two-month-old offensive.

Turkey said that it troops and allied Syrian fighters had encircled Afrin, a city in the enclave of the same name where some 350,000 civilians remainfollowing a seven-week military operation.

Turkey launched its assault on the border enclave on January 20 to drive out Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), forces which Ankara views as terrorists linked to Kurdish rebel groups fighting in Turkey.

“We have got a little bit closer to Afrin. I hope that Afrin will, God willing, have completely fallen by the evening.” Erdogan told supporters in a speech in Ankara on Wednesday.

A passage out of Afrin remained partially open, and thousands of people have reportedly fled the town, heading toward nearby areas controlled by the Syrian government.

Syria’s Al-Ikhbariya TV showed cars, trucks and tractors loaded with civilians driving out of the town.

But civilians and Kurdish officials say that those who have tried to flee the city have come under fire and have been forced to turn back, leaving hundreds of thousands of people trapped.

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