Iraqis flee border areas as Turkey strikes Kurdish militants
IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Dozens of civilians fled villages in northern Iraq on Monday as Turkey stepped up a military campaign targeting Kurdish rebels that has drawn condemnation from Iraqi officials.
Residents loaded trucks with their belongings and shepherds led livestock out of the Iraqi border village of Keshani as Turkish forces bombarded suspected positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey.
Turkey launched an air and ground offensive into the border region last week in a campaign to root out the PKK, which Ankara maintains has bases in northern Iraq. Those fleeing said they were afraid of airstrikes and Turkish troops entering their homes.
“We are scared because of the Turks. We don’t want our kids to be killed, so we have to leave, but we don’t have any place to go,” a woman fleeing Keshani said.
“Nothing is left and our government didn’t do anything,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
Around 15 families reside in Keshani, where most tend to farmland and livestock, according to Delsher Abdulsatatr, the mayor of a nearby town.
The Turkish military announced late Sunday that a soldier died in a hospital in Turkey of wounds sustained in fighting. His death brings the Turkish death toll in the operation to two. At least seven civilians have reportedly been killed on the Iraqi side.
Turkey regularly carries out air and ground attacks against the PKK in northern Iraq. It says neither the Iraqi government nor the regional Iraqi Kurdish administration have taken measures to combat the group.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador twice last week to convey what it said was a “strongly worded protest.”