Four Turkish soldiers killed in clashes with PKK, says ministry

Military vehicles pass as Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters man a checkpoint on a highway connecting the Iraqi-Syrian border town of Rabia and the town of Snuny north of Mount Sinjar December 20, 2014. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 April 2019
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Four Turkish soldiers killed in clashes with PKK, says ministry

  • Macron on Friday made clear of the importance to Paris of “the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border,” the French presidency said

ISTANBUL, PARIS: Four Turkish soldiers were killed on Friday in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) near the border with Iraq, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
Demiroren News Agency said a military base had been attacked in the mountainous Cukurca district of Turkey’s southeastern province of Hakkari, prompting the Turkish military to respond with a “large-scale” military operation.
“As part of ongoing operations on the Turkey-Iraq border, two soldiers were killed in clashes with terrorists despite all efforts to save them,” the ministry said, adding a total of four soldiers were killed and six wounded.
“Terrorists are under intense fire with the air operation and fire support vehicles in the region,” it said.
The PKK, which has waged an insurgency for autonomy in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast since 1984, is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.
A day earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Daesh extremists in Syria, drawing a sharp rebuke from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.
Macron assured the Kurdish envoys of French support in their fight against the remaining militants, but Ankara accused the French leader of “seeking to confer artificial legitimacy on a faction of terrorist groups.”
“We condemn the reception by French President Emmanuel Macron of a delegation of so-called ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF),” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in the statement.
In late March the US-backed SDF flushed out Daesh militants from their last bastion in Syria but the Kurdish-led force still warns that the militants remain a threat in places.
The SDF is an umbrella Kurdish-Arab force dominated by Kurds from the People’s Protection Units (YPG). It is regarded with huge distrust by neighboring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.
Macron assured the visiting SDF representatives, who were not named, of the “active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security,” the presidency said in a statement.
Particularly important is the support in the “handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families.”
European capitals are keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the militants, given many are dual nationals.
Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to “respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilization of civilian populations in Syria.”
The SDF were the West’s key ally in defeating Daesh and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.
But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now Daesh has been beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
France’s past contacts with the SDF’s Syrian Kurds had already angered Turkey which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the PKK, which has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.
Macron on Friday made clear of the importance to Paris of “the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border,” the French presidency said.
But Aksoy said Macron’s move did not sit well with the French-Turkish alliance, and warned that “Turkey will not hesitate to take measures deemed necessary to protect its national security.”


Sadr against Iraq becoming party to US-Iran conflict

Updated 4 min 11 sec ago
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Sadr against Iraq becoming party to US-Iran conflict

  • Sadr calls for demonstrations on Friday
  • The tension between the US and Iran is at its peak

BAGHDAD: The anti-Iranian Iraqi Shiite cleric, Muqtada Al-Sadr, has called on all Iraqis to take to the streets in massive demonstrations across the country on Friday to show their rejection to be involved in the US-Iran conflict, and he threatened to consider whoever involves Iraq with war as “an enemy,” a statement said.

The tension between the US and Iran is at its peak, especially after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal, imposing economic sanctions on Iran and threatening military attacks if Iran attacks US interests in the Middle East.

Iraq has been a battleground for the great powers in the region, especially America and Iran, since 2003. Iraqi leaders believe that the country will be the first confrontation zone between the two countries in the event of a war, especially since Iran has great influence in Iraq and controls armed factions that could target US interests at any time.

Sadr, who has millions of followers and controls one of the largest Shiite factions, has publicly distanced himself and his fighters from the Iranians for years. It has criticized them on several occasions for “their blatant interference in Iraqi affairs and their quest to control the country using their armed arms.”

Despite Sadr’s hostile attitude toward Iran, he still considers the US as his first “enemy” in Iraq, and has blamed them for the killing of thousands of his followers in the years since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. 

He has expressed his attitude toward the Americans in his speeches and directives to his followers.

“I am not backing the war between Iran and the US and I am not (supporting any situation) that involves Iraq in this war and makes it a battlefield,” Sadr said. 

“We need a serious pause to keep Iraq away from this fierce war that will burn everything.”

Iran has formed, trained and equipped dozens of Shiite, Sunni, Christian and Yazidi factions over the past years. 

All American interests are located within the range of these factions’ rockets.

Restraining and controlling these factions is one of the biggest challenges facing Iraqi leaders. 

A rocket fired by unknown gunmen on Sunday targeting the Green Zone, the most fortified area in Baghdad that hosts most of the governmental buildings and embassies, including the US embassy, has embarrassed the Iraqi government and intensified fears that Iraqi factions
could spark a war between Iran and the US.

Sadr called on Iraqis to take part in mass demonstrations on Friday evening in all provinces — except the holy city of Najaf.

“We need to raise the Iraqi people’s voice condemning the war … it would be the end of Iraq if this war broke out,” Sadr said. 

“Any party that involves Iraq in the war and makes it a battleground (for Iran and the US) will be an enemy of the Iraqi people,” the Iraqi leader said.