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Turkey strikes PKK in Iraq despite government complaint

Baghdad formally complained on Friday that Turkey was violating its airspace
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters patrolling on the front line in the Makhmour area, near Mosul (AFP)

Turkey again targeted Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq on Saturday, a day after Baghdad formally complained that repeated Turkish air strikes violated its sovereignty and endangered civilians.

Its military announced the strikes against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants on the same day Turkey's foreign ministry insisted it would continue its operations and asked Baghdad for help in fighting to group. 

The military tweeted that it had carried out air strikes in northern Iraq on Friday and Saturday, killing seven people, though it was not clear whether those were in addition to the eight fighters it had already announced killed on Friday. 

Friday's announcement about the operations against PKK fighters in northern Iraq prompted Iraqi authorities to summon the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad.

Turkey regularly hits PKK bases across its southern border, saying the militants use the remote and mountainous northern Iraqi region as a base for deadly attacks inside Turkey, where the outlawed group has waged an insurgency since the 1980s.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to launch a ground offensive in northern Iraq earlier this year.

This week he also announced an imminent operation against a Kurdish militia in neighbouring Syria.

The US-backed People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, which has been fighting Islamic State in Syria, controls Syria's northeastern border with Turkey. Ankara says it is an extension of the PKK and poses a direct threat to Turkey.

"The activities of the PKK terrorist organisation in the territory of Iraq and Syria have become a national security issue for Turkey," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said.

He said the government in Baghdad had a duty to prevent Iraqi land being used as a base for attacks on neighbours, and described Friday's air strikes as an act of self-defence which Turkey carried out because Iraq would not act.

"These operations in the fight against terrorism will continue as long as terror organisations nest on Iraqi soil and as long as Turkey’s security needs require it to," Aksoy said.

The PKK is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

It has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast that has killed about 40,000 people.