Turkish air strikes kill 26 militants in southeast Turkey, Iraq: army

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish air strikes killed 26 militants and destroyed their gun positions, shelters and ammunition stores in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq this week, Turkey’s military said on Tuesday.

The strikes were carried out on Sunday and Monday in Diyarbakir and Sirnak provinces and an area of northern Iraq where the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has bases, the military said in a statement on Twitter.

The Turkish military has ramped up air strikes in northern Iraq, targeting PKK bases in Qandil, close to the Iraq-Iran border, where Ankara suspects high-ranking members of the outlawed group are located.

Ankara has also recently stepped up warnings of a potential ground offensive into the Qandil region, with President Tayyip Erdogan vowing to “drain the terror swamp” there.

“We will continue to topple Qandil on the heads of the separatist terrorist organization,” Erdogan told an election rally in the southern province of Adana.

The PKK, which has waged an insurgency in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey since 1984, is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Turkey has carried out two cross-border military operations in northern Syria since 2016. Since January, Turkey has been waging an offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara deems an extension of the PKK, in Syria’s Afrin region.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday Turkish troops were advancing on Qandil with “determined steps”.

Separately, a Turkish soldier was killed and two wounded on Tuesday by an improvised explosive device planted by the PKK in the southeastern province of Siirt, the governor’s office said.

In the neighboring province of Sirnak, bordering Iraq, two Turkish soldiers were killed and three others wounded in two separate explosions, a security source said.

Reporting by Daren Butler, writing by Ali Kucukgocmen, editing by David Dolan/Larry King