Turkey launched early Sunday morning air operations against Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq and Syria in retaliation for last Sunday’s terrorist attack in Istanbul, reports the Turkish Defense Ministry.
“The Sword Claw air operation has been launched against the northern regions of Syria and Iraq used as a base by terrorists to attack our country,” said a Defense statement, posted on Twitter at 0:13 GMT this Sunday.
The goal is to “neutralize terrorists” from the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq and the Syrian Kurdish militia People’s Defense Units (YPG) in Syria to “ensure border security” and “destroy the sources of terrorism,” the statement added.
“It is time to call for an account. We are making the vile traitors pay,” the Ministry had tweeted shortly before, along with a photograph of a fighter-bomber in a night flight.
“The nests of terror are destroyed with shots that hit the target,” he added a little later in another message, with a short video showing the impact of an aerial bombardment in an undefined place.
The public channel TRT indicates that it is a retaliatory operation for the attack last Sunday in Istanbul, which Ankara attributes to the YPG, although this organization has denied any involvement.
The attack, perpetrated with a bag of TNT explosive abandoned in the busy Istiklal street in the center of Istanbul, has caused 6 deaths and 81 injuries, of which 13 are still hospitalized.
According to Turkish police, the perpetrator, a young Syrian woman named Ahlam Albashir, had been trained by the YPG in the Kurdish city of Kobane in Syria.
Both the YPG and the PKK, which has also denied any involvement, have accused Ankara of wanting to use the attack as a pretext for a military operation in Syria.
The private channel CNNTürk assures, citing military sources, that the operations in Syria are directed against numerous towns under the control of the YPG in the northern strip of Syria, from Derbesiye to Kobane and Tel Rifat, and that they have the ground support of Syrian militias. local allies with Ankara.
In Iraq, the aforementioned chain points out, the bombardments are carried out against the Kandil mountains, the rearguard of the PKK in the extreme northeast of the country, and against Sincar near the Syrian border.
The other side of the coin
The airstrikes targeted Kobane, a strategic Kurdish-majority Syrian city near the Turkish border, and the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar.
Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Farhad Shami said in a tweet that two villages densely populated with displaced people were under Turkish shelling. He noted that the attacks had produced “deaths and injuries.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the strikes had also hit Syrian army positions and that at least 12 people had been killed, including SDF and Syrian soldiers. This institution noted that Turkish warplanes carried out some 25 airstrikes in the countryside of Aleppo, Raqqa and Hasakah.
In neighboring Iraq, the US Consulate General in Erbil said they are monitoring “credible reports” of possible Turkish military action in northern Syria and northern Iraq in the coming days.
The Kurdish-led authority in northeast Syria said on Saturday that if Turkey attacks, then fighters in the area would have “the right to resist and defend our areas in a major way that will lead the region into a long war.”
Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations in Syria since 2016 and already controls some territories in the north. Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened another operation in northern Syria. Turkish forces launched a new ground and air operation, dubbed Claw-Lock, against the PKK in northern Iraq in April.
Bulgaria detains five alleged accomplices in Istanbul attack
The Bulgarian police have arrested five people suspected of complicity in the terrorist attack in Istanbul last Sunday, the spokeswoman for the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office, Siika Mileva, declared on Saturday.
According to Mileva, the detainees are accused of helping those responsible for the attack after it was committed, offering logistics and communication to help one or more involved leave Turkey to flee from the authorities.
A court in Sofia ordered preventive detention for four of the five detainees, although it found no evidence of collaboration with a terrorist act but only of people smuggling across the border from Turkey to Bulgaria, BNR public radio reported.
The main clue is a contact by mobile phone with which one of the detainees communicated with a presumed participant in the attack, says the aforementioned chain.
Mileva refused to give more details about the detainees or the facts of which they are accused, but the public television BNT, citing its own sources, assures that three of the detainees are Moldovan citizens, while two others, a man and a woman They are from an Arab country.
One of the detainees, says BNT, is a person “close” to Bilal Hassan, a Syrian citizen in search and capture who Ankara considers the mastermind of the attack and who allegedly gave orders to the material author, the young Syrian Ahlam Albashir, arrested in Istanbul.
According to the private Bulgarian channel bTV, this detainee had contacted Hassan to help him leave Turkey with the help of the other detainees and that the transit across the border would be carried out with a minibus that was leaving on the same Sunday, the day of the attack. from the Turkish border town of Edirne.
However, before arriving in Bulgaria, Hassan had an altercation with a migrant woman who was traveling in the minibus and was forced by the traffickers to leave the vehicle, Adelina Natina, a lawyer for some of the five arrested today in Bulgaria, told bTV. .
The suspect then got into an SUV with a Bulgarian license plate, but from then on he lost track, bTV says, citing judicial sources.
The Turkish Interior Ministry had initially claimed that those involved in the attack had plans to flee to Greece after committing the attack.