Turkish military says kills 14 Kurdish militants in northern Iraq

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s military said it killed 14 members of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in air strikes in northern Iraq on Saturday, as Ankara steps up a push against the group and their affiliates in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey has intensified attacks on the PKK in northern Iraq and its Syrian-Kurdish affiliate, the YPG, in northern Syria. President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that as many as 220 militants had been killed in recent strikes elsewhere in northern Iraq.

Six militants were killed around the area of Sinat-Haftan and eight in the countryside around Adiyaman in two separate air strikes in northern Iraq on Saturday morning, the military said in a statement.

The PKK, which has carried out a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state, has camps in the mountains of northern Iraq. Both the United States and Turkey consider it a terrorist organization.

However, the NATO allies disagree on the Syrian-Kurdish YPG, which the United States sees as a useful partner in the fight against Islamic State in Syria. Erdogan considers the Syrian-Kurdish fighters to be a terrorist group and is concerned their advances in northern Syrian could fuel the Kurdish insurgency at home.

He is expected to raise the issue when he meets with U.S. President Donald Trump next month.

“We tell our American friends not to take terrorists with them,” Erdogan said in comments broadcast live on network NTV.

He reiterated his position that he does not want the United States to use the YPG in the fight to take Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria.

“America, coalition forces and Turkey can join hands and Raqqa will turn into a graveyard for Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic name for Islamic State.

He said some 210-220 militants had been killed in recent air strikes elsewhere in northern Iraq.

Reporting by Orhan Coskun, Mert Ozkan and Yesim Dikmen; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Toby Chopra