Ankara declared it would continue to eliminate Kurdish militants’ capabilities throughout the region as the war erupted on Friday, almost a week after a bomb attempt in Ankara. Turkish security forces attacked Kurdish militants in northern Syria and eastern Turkey.
Turkey acknowledged the incident but took no responsibility after U.S. forces shot down a Turkish drone in northern Syria on Thursday, suggesting it may have wanted to defuse any tensions with its NATO ally.
The military “neutralised” 26 Kurdish militants in northern Syria overnight in retaliation for a rocket attack on a Turkish base, the defence ministry said. Turkey typically uses the term “neutralise” to mean kill.
The rocket attack on the base, by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, killed one Turkish police officer and wounded seven officers and soldiers in northwest Syria’s Dabiq area on Thursday evening, Ankara said.
Turkey also conducted air strikes and destroyed 30 militant targets elsewhere in northern Syria, including an oil well, a storage facility and shelters, the defence ministry said.
“As has been done in Iraq, all the capabilities and revenue sources developed by the terrorist organisation in Syria will continue to be destroyed in a systematic way,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
In Turkey, two Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants were “neutralised” in eastern Agri province in a clash with commandos during an operation with combat drone and attack helicopter support, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said in a statement.
He said counter-terror police detained 75 people suspected of links to the PKK in an operation across 11 provinces.
The PKK previously claimed responsibility for Sunday’s bombing in Ankara that left the two attackers dead and wounded two police officers. Turkey said the attackers came from Syria but the Syrian SDF forces denied this.
Turkey lists the YPG as a terrorist organisation and says it is indistinguishable from the PKK, which has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.
The United States and European Union deem the PKK as terrorists, but not the YPG.
The YPG is also at the heart of the SDF forces in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State militants. U.S. support for them has long caused tension with Turkey.
The SDF said Turkish attacks had killed eight people since the Ankara bombing.
Underscoring the tension, the Pentagon said the United States had on Thursday shot down an armed Turkish drone that was operating near its troops in Syria, the first time Washington has brought down an aircraft of NATO ally Turkey.
A Pentagon spokesman said Turkish drones were seen carrying out airstrikes in Hasakah, northeast Syria, and one drone came within less than a half a kilometre (0.3 miles) of U.S. troops, was deemed a threat and shot down by F-16 aircraft.
The Turkish foreign ministry statement said that one of Turkey’s drones was lost during operations against Kurdish militants in northeast Syria due to “different technical evaluations” with third parties on the ground.
Without citing a specific country, it said it was working with the relevant parties on the ground to improve the functioning of non-conflict mechanisms on the ground.
Ankara said on Thursday a ground operation into Syria was one option it could consider. Turkey has mounted several previous incursions into northern Syria against the YPG.