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Three Turkish soldiers killed in Iraq after anti-PKK operation launched

Scores of civilians have died in recent years as Turkey has targeted Kurdish rebels in Iraq's north
A Turkish jet fighter performs during the celebration to mark the country's Independence Day (AFP)

Three Turkish soldiers have been killed after Ankara launched a new military operation against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group in northern Iraq, according to the defence ministry.

The new operation, dubbed "Claw-Eagle 2", was launched on Wednesday targeting rebels based in Dohuk.

The defence ministry said two Turkish soldiers were killed and two others wounded in clashes with "terrorists", while another soldier was killed on Thursday.

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The PKK, listed as a terror group by Turkey and much of the international community, has for decades used Iraq's mountainous areas as a springboard for its insurgency against the Turkish state. 

The Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids on PKK bases in northern Iraq.

Turkey launched its first "Claw-Eagle" operation in June. As part of the campaign, Turkey said it would set up a number of temporary military bases in addition to those already established in northern Iraq from where its troops carry out operations against the PKK.

Last month, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar visited Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region, where he said Turkey intended to eliminate PKK attacks in the region to ensure border security and regional peace.

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.