By Hurriyet Daily News
Turkey is capable of carrying out operations against groups it deems terrorists without any “approval” from foreign countries, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed.
“These days Turkey is finding terrorist organizations outside its borders and is entering their dens. They try to escape but we pursue them,” Erdoğan said at an event to mark the opening of new schools in Istanbul on April 2.
“They escaped to [Syria’s] Afrin and [Iraq’s] Sinjar. We have told Baghdad [the Iraqi government] that either they should deal with it or we will do it. We are not thinking about waiting for any approval from anyone for these [kind of actions],” he added, referring to Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” in northwestern Syria’s Afrin and the presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the northwestern Iraqi region of Sinjar.
Ankara has made several calls on the Iraqi government to clear PKK militants and their affiliates from Sinjar, particularly since the Turkish military completed “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin. “Operation Olive Branch” lasted for 58 days from Jan. 20 and aimed to drive the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) out of Afrin.
“In Afrin 3,872 terrorists have been neutralized,” Erdoğan said, implying that the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
The Turkish General Staff stated that 46 soldiers of the Turkish Armed Forces and 163 members of the allied Free Syrian Army (FSA) were killed during the course of the operation as of March 18, shortly after they had taken Afrin.
‘You may hear about new targets’
Erdoğan, accompanied by Turkish celebrities including a number of singers and sportspeople, visited soldiers at an outpost near the border with Syria on April 1.
“They are in preparation to achieve new targets. You may hear about new targets any time soon,” he said the following day.
He also stressed that Turkey “aims to become one of the top democracies and economies in the world.”
“Our dream is to make Turkey one of the top 10 countries in the world in terms of democracy and the economy,” Erdoğan said.
“As Turkey grows, develops and strengthens, the nature and size of the problems we encounter changes accordingly. So our work is not easy,” he added.
Turkish jets hit targets in northern Iraq
Meanwhile, Turkish jets on April 1 destroyed eight targets used as shelters by militants of the PKK in northern Iraq, the Turkish military said on April 2, adding that counter-terror operations were conducted in the Hakurk and Qandil regions.
The Interior Ministry announced on April 2 that at least 61 PKK militants were “neutralized” in counter-terrorism operations across Turkey from March 26 to April 2.
On a related note, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on April 2 that a total of 30 security officials were killed in PKK attacks in March. Two civilians also lost their lives while six others sustained injuries in those attacks, according to information gathered by the news service.