Turkey: 13 hostages executed in northern Iraq, 48 PKK militants killed
Ankara said on Sunday that 13 Turks were found executed in a cave in northern Iraq while 48 Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants were killed in an operation launched against the group on 10 February.
Defence Minister Hulusi Akar also said three Turkish soldiers were killed and three others wounded during the fight with the PKK, labelled as a "terrorist organisation" by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Akar said 12 of the kidnapped Turks had been shot in the head and one in the shoulder.
The hostages had been held for four years in the mountains of northern Iraq. Akar said they were shot by their PKK captors as Turkish troops were about to stage a rescue operation.
"According to initial information given by two terrorists captured alive, our citizens were martyred at the start of the operation by the terrorist responsible for the cave," Akar said at the operation's control centre near the Iraq border.
Akar added that the military operation was launched against the PKK in northern Iraq's Gara region earlier this week to secure Turkish borders and find citizens who had previously been kidnapped. The identity of those found dead in the cave has yet to be announced.
A statement on a PKK website said some prisoners it was holding, including Turkish intelligence, police and military personnel, had died during clashes in the area. The group denied it had ever hurt prisoners.
'World is silent'
Meanwhile, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin accused other countries of failing to speak out against the militants.
"The world is silent. This silence is a shameful act of complicity. But we will not remain silent," he wrote on Twitter.
In 2017, Turkey's foreign minister said Ankara was working to bring back citizens he said had been kidnapped by the PKK, after Turkish media reported two Turkish intelligence officers had been captured by the PKK in Iraq.
The PKK insurgency and Turkish operations against the group are believed to have resulted in at least 40,000 deaths since the conflict began in 1984.
Air strikes in the Kurdish region of Iraq have killed dozens of civilians in recent years, as well as causing damage to farmland and infrastructure.
A statement in November by the NGO Christian Peacemaker Team that conducts ground investigations on the effects of Turkish air strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan said some 97 civilians had been killed and 103 others wounded because of bombardments since August 2015.
Furthermore, over 126 villages had been completely evacuated in the region while more than 500 others are under the threat of being depopulated.