ISTANBUL: The Turkish military on Saturday carried out a second wave of strikes against targets controlled by Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria and embarked on a new air campaign to bombard camps of Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.
The two-pronged operation against IS and militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)—two groups who are themselves bitterly opposed—came after a week of deadly violence in Turkey the authorities blamed on the organizations.
The Turkish F-16 jets all returned safely to their base in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir early Saturday after the latest raids, the official Anatolia news agency reported.
The raids against IS, which had begun before dawn Friday, marked a major shift in policy towards the group by key NATO member Turkey, which has faced severe criticism from its Western allies for not doing enough to combat the jihadists.
But on this occasion planes also bombed positions of the PKK in neighboring Iraq, where the outlawed group’s military forces are based.
“Strikes were carried out on targets of the Daesh (IS) terror group in Syria and the PKK terror group in northern Iraq,” the office of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a statement.
It said shelters and warehouses containing PKK weapons were hit in the northern Iraq operation, listing seven locations where the strikes had been carried out including Mount Kandil, where the PKK’s military leadership is based.
In addition to the air raids, Turkish ground forces also carried out artillery strikes against IS in Syria and the PKK in northern Iraq, the statement said.
“At around 11:00 pm (2000 GMT) tonight, Turkish warplanes started bombing our positions near the border, accompanied by heavy artillery shelling,” PKK spokesman in Iraq Bakhtiar Dogan confirmed to Agence France-Presse.
NATO and the United Nations have been kept informed of the operations, the Turkish statement said.
The Turkish air strikes against the PKK targets in northern Iraq raised questions about the future of the delicate peace process between Turkey and Kurdish rebels, who until now have largely observed a ceasefire since 2013.
The PKK has for decades waged a deadly insurgency in the southeast of Turkey for self-rule that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.