ISTANBUL/BAGHDAD: Four Turkish soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in northern Iraq where they are battling Kurdish militants, the defence ministry said on Monday.

Three soldiers died and two were injured when an improvised explosive device went off in an area where Turkish forces have been conducting an operation against fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the ministry said.

Another soldier was killed and one wounded in a shootout with Kurdish fighters near a Turkish military base, it said.

Turkish forces routinely conduct operations against PKK bases in rugged mountains in northern Iraq.

The group is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies.

Turkish troops have maintained a network of bases in Iraq since the mid-1990s under security agreements struck with Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The PKK has waged a rebellion in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey since 1984 that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.

The PKK’s pan-Kurdish agenda — for a homeland straddling parts of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran — has often put it at odds with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish government, which has sought to maintain good relations with Ankara.

Three Yazidi fighters killed

Three Yazidi fighters, including a local chief of Iraq’s powerful Hashed al-Shaabi coalition, were killed on Monday in a Turkish air strike on northwest Iraq, a security source said.

The source said Hassan Saeed died along with two comrades as their car was hit on the road to Sinjar, the heartland of Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority.

Saeed headed the Sinjar Resistance Units, set up in 2014 to protect the Yazidis from the militant Islamic State (IS) group before being integrated into the mainly pro-Iranian Hashed.

His force is seen as close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group outlawed in Turkey that has rear bases in northern Iraq.Before they were targeted by IS, around 550,000 Yazidis had been living in Iraq’s rugged northwest, concentrated around Sinjar.

But in 2014, the jihadists swept through Sinjar and, branding the Yazidis as infidels, killed the men, took boys as child soldiers and forced women into sexual slavery.

Several thousand Yazidis were killed and nearly 100,000 fled abroad. Some 360,000 remain displaced in the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2021

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