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Turkey says 108 Kurdish militants 'neutralised' in past week

Turkey says its operations targeted PKK militants in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq
A supporter of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) at a festival in southeastern Turkey (Reuters)

Some 108 Kurdish militants have been "neutralised" in operations targeting southeast Turkey and northern Iraq over the past week, Turkey's armed forces said on Saturday.

The military uses the term "neutralised" to refer to operations in which opposition forces have been killed, wounded or captured.

In a weekly roundup, it said it had neutralised 31 militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the southeastern provinces of Tunceli, Mardin, Diyarbakir and Sirnak.

It said 77 other militants had been neutralised in cross-border operations.

Earlier on Saturday, the military said it had neutralised six militants in an air strike targeting northern Iraq's Hakurk region.

Turkey regularly carries out air strikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, where the group is based in the Qandil Mountains.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast that has killed more than 40,000 people.

Turkey also claims Kurdish militants are carrying out cross-border raids from the Iraqi region of Sinjar and has threatened to intervene directly in Iraq if the raids continue.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would do "what is necessary" if an Iraqi operation against the militants failed, raising the prospect of a possible direct Turkish military operation.

'Operation Olive Branch' 

In an attempt to placate Turkey, Iraq pledged to prevent any foreign fighters from entering the border.

"The Iraqi army is in full control of Sinjar and the border strip with Turkey," the chief of Iraq's military General Staff, Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanmi, said.

Turkish forces, with the help of allied Syrian militias, are waging a full-scale military campaign in the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin.

The predominantly Kurdish inhabited area was controlled by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia until Turkey’s campaign, known as Operation Olive Branch, seized the majority of the territory after a two-month long operation.

Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the PKK and doesn’t distinguish between the two.

The YPG, which claims to have no direct operational links with the PKK, has been the primary ally of the US-led collation against Islamic State in Syria and was instrumental in seizing large swathes of territory, including the de facto capital, Raqqa, from the group.

That alliance has angered Turkey which has threatened further incursions into YPG territory, including the town of Manbij, a base for US forces, raising the prospect of a clash between the two NATO member states.