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Turkey steps up airstrikes against Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq after 12 soldiers were killed

QAMISHLI, Syria — Turkey intensified its airstrikes against Kurdish groups in Syria and northern Iraq in retaliation for the deaths of 12 Turkish soldiers in Iraq over the weekend.

The Turkish defense ministry said in a statement Monday that it had killed at least 26 militants in the strikes.

In northeast Syria, at least eight civilians were killed in Turkish airstrikes Monday, including two women, Farhad Shami, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom-based war monitor, said 12 others were wounded.

Turkey has carried out 128 strikes in northeast Syria in 2023, killing 94 people, according to the Observatory.

On Friday, Turkish officials said militants affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since the 1980s, attempted to infiltrate a Turkish base in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. They said six Turkish soldiers were killed in the ensuing firefight. The following day, six more Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes with Kurdish militants.

In response, Ankara launched strikes on dozens of sites it said were associated with the PKK in Iraq and Syria.

Some of the strikes hit oil industry sites, health facilities and vital infrastructure in northeast Syria, reducing electricity production by 50% on Saturday, according to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, a Kurdish-led authority in northeast Syria that Turkey claims is affiliated with the PKK but which is a key ally of the United States.

Turkey and Washington both consider the PKK a terror group, but disagree on the status of the Syrian Kurdish groups, which have been allied with the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

The Kurdish administration in its statement urged the United Nations to intervene, warning that the Turkish attacks could threaten the region’s security. It said that one of the strikes had hit a site near the Alaya prison in Qamishli, which houses IS members.

SDF commander Mazloum Abdi in a post on X condemned Turkey’s “targeting of infrastructure and civilians’ means of livelihood” in northeast Syria.

There was no immediate comment from Iraqi officials on the strikes.

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