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  Wednesday, June 19, 2019
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Turkey has launched a large-scale ground operation targeting Kurdish insurgents
Turkey has launched a large-scale ground operation targeting Kurdish insurgents in the north of Iraq, the top military command said on Friday.

Turkey's NTV reported that 10,000 troops have moved 10 kilometers (six miles) into Iraq. Thousands more troops are stationed at the border, ready to join the operation.

"The transborder land operation started at 7 p.m. local time [5 p.m. GMT] on Thursday by the Ground Forces with support from the Air Force," the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces said in a statement.

It said the operation is only aimed against the terrorist PKK group, not against "the territorial unity and stability of Iraq," stressing that Turkish army units "will return to their permanent basing areas as soon as the set objectives have been attained."

Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdish administration in north Iraq, has ordered Kurdish Peshmerga security forces in Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan not to engage Turkish troops, Iraqi official news agency INA reported.

"Barzani has ordered Peshmerga to move out of the areas Turkish troops have moved into, not to exchange fire, and not to resist Turkish troops," a source in the Kurdish administration quoted him as saying.

Iraq's government has urged Turkey to respect its sovereignty, but said it hoped the operation would be limited.

A government spokesman said Peshmerga had stopped some Turkish ground troops from entering the country, adding that there was no confrontation.

According to the Hurriyet daily, on Thursday military helicopters combed the area and two Turkish warplanes were seen flying toward northern Iraq, but it was not clear whether they were on a bombing mission. Turkey has confirmed a total of five aerial attacks inside Iraq since Dec. 16 against the rebels.

Turkey had said it may launch a major operation against Kurdish insurgents based in northern Iraq in the second half of March.

Ankara earlier warned about the possibility of moving into northern Iraq to conduct a military operation against PKK militants. Over 40,000 people have been killed in Turkey since 1984, when the PKK started its fight for an ethnic Kurdish state in the southeast of the country.

The PKK, listed by the U.S., NATO and the EU as a terrorist organization, has been fighting for autonomy status in southeast Turkey for nearly 25 years. The conflict has so far claimed about 40,000 lives.


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