Ankara will establish a new military base in the Metina area of Duhok province to block the movement of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in the area, Turkey’s interior minister told members of his party, according to media reports.
“The operations in northern Iraq will continue. Metina region is an important place. Just like we did in Syria, we will establish bases and control the area,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said during a closed meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), pro-government Turkiye news outlet reported on Friday.
“This region is a route to Qandil and we will control this line,” he added, referring to PKK headquarters in the Kurdistan Region’s mountains.
In northern Syria, Turkey and its proxies have conducted three military operations in since 2016 against Kurdish fighters it claims are linked to the PKK. It now controls a stretch of Syrian territory along its border.
Last week, the Turkish military launched new operations against the PKK in the Kurdistan Region. The Metina area, on the border, is the focus on Operation Claw-Thunderbolt, and Operation Claw-Lightning targets the Avashin and Basyan areas further east.
Metina is a strategic area for the PKK and the presence of Turkish military bases there will limit their movement between Qandil and Syria, as well as between the Kurdistan Region and southeastern Turkey.
Local Kurdish officials have warned that Turkey has made advances in both operations, deploying troops to within three kilometers of Kesta village. Intense clashes have terrified villagers and forced families to flee their homes.
The PKK is an armed Kurdish group that has fought the Turkish state for decades, seeking increased rights of Kurds. Ankara considers it a terrorist organization and a threat to its national security. It frequently sends fighter jets, attack helicopters, drones, and ground troops across the border to fight the group.
Last July, Turkish presidency’s Directorate of Communications published a map claiming to have established 37 “military points” on the Kurdistan Region side of the mountainous frontier and in the urban centres of Erbil, Duhok, Zakho, and Soran. Turkish officials do not usually make such information public and the map was quickly removed.
A total of six Turkish soldiers have been killed in this latest incursion, including two announced by the defence ministry on Friday.
Many Kurds that live in the region are angered. “PKK presence is the cause of continuous attacks, airstrikes and the evacuation of our villages. PKK has been fighting the Turkish state for more than 40 years, but it has not been able to free 1 centimeter of Kurdish soil in Turkey. Yet, it brings its fight to our homes, the only freed region of Kurdistan.”