Northern Iraq's Zap 'largely cleared" of PKK terror: Defense Minister

Northern Iraq’s Zap region has largely been cleared of PKK terrorists, informed Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

A total of 506 terrorists have been eliminated since Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Lock, a cross-border counterterrorism offensive, last April, Akar told reporters after a Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara on Monday. "Operation Claw-Lock has reached a certain stage. The Zap area has been largely cleared of terrorists. With this operation, a 302-kilometer (187-mile) line along the Iraqi border has been secured," he said.

Turkish forces destroyed nearly 600 caves and terrorist shelters in the region, according to Akar, along with more than 2,000 mines and handmade explosives. Some 1,174 weapons and 533,275 rounds of ammunition were seized, he added.

Akar reaffirmed Türkiye's respect for borders, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all neighbors, especially Iraq and Syria. "Our only objective is the defense and security of our nation. That is what we are working for, and we will do whatever needs to be done," he underlined.

With Operation Claw-Lock, Turkish forces targeted the PKK terrorist group's hideouts in Iraq's northern Metina, Zap and Avasin-Basyan regions, near the Turkish border.

It was preceded by two operations – Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle – launched in 2020.

For more than 40 years, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.

Turkish security forces regularly conduct counterterrorism operations in northern Iraq, a region where PKK terrorists have hideouts and bases from where they carry out attacks against Türkiye.

Türkiye has long been stressing that it will not tolerate terrorist threats against its national security and has called on Iraqi officials to take the necessary steps to eliminate the terrorist group. Ankara previously noted that it would not shy away from targeting terrorist threats if the expected steps were not taken.

The Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq are the PKK's stronghold and the group is active in many nearby cities and towns. It occupies a large number of villages in the region from where it launches attacks on Türkiye.