ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey launched airstrikes against Kurdish rebel targets in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, after the killing of a Turkish diplomat there, state-run media quoted Turkey's defense minister as saying on Friday.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkish jets on Thursday hit the Qandil mountains region in northern Iraq, where the leadership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, is reported to be based. A Defense Ministry statement said airstrikes were also conducted Friday against alleged PKK targets in Iraq's Karajak region.
Akar said the offensive was launched after an employee of the Turkish Consulate in the city of Irbil was killed along with an Iraqi national in a gun attack at a Turkish-owned restaurant in the city on Wednesday. The diplomat has been identified as Osman Kose.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting although suspicion fell on Kurdish militants.
In Irbil, a statement issued by security forces said the lead suspect in the investigation was a 27-year-old who hails from Turkey's predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.
The statement did not give further details, but said the suspect was already wanted by security agencies in Iraq's Kurdish region.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency claimed that two of the suspect's siblings were alleged PKK militants and that a third was a legislator from Turkey's pro-Kurdish party.
"The terror organization was dealt a major blow following the heinous attack in Irbil through the most extensive aerial operation conducted lately in the Qandil region," Anadolu Agency quoted Akar as saying.
He said the Turkish jets struck "weapons positions, shelters and caves" belonging to the PKK.
"Our struggle against terror will continue with growing determination until the last terrorist is neutralized and the blood of our martyrs are avenged," Akar said.
Iraq's self-governing Kurdish region is politically allied with the Turkish government, but PKK militants, who have fought a decades-long insurgency against Ankara, operate in parts of the territory. Turkey labels the group a terrorist organization.
Turkey has regularly bombed the mountainous areas where the PKK maintains bases. The group has been waging an insurgency for more than three decades.
The Turkish defense ministry announced las week that it had launched a new operation, dubbed "Operation Claw-2" aiming to destroy caves and shelters used by the PKK in the Hakurk region.