The Ministry of National Defense announced on Thursday that more than 1,000 terrorists from the PKK have been eliminated since Jan. 1 as the country’s counterterrorism campaign extends to Iraq and Syria
Col. Zeki Aktürk, a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, on Thursday, said that more than 1,000 terrorists from the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian wing YPG were “neutralized” so far this year, including those hiding out across the border in Iraq and northern Syria.
“In the past week alone, 67 terrorists were neutralized,” Aktürk told reporters at a briefing in the capital Ankara. The total number of terrorists “neutralized” so far this year has reached 1,062, he added. Turkish authorities use the term “neutralize” to imply that the terrorists in question surrendered, were killed or captured.
Regarding Syria, the official said that all necessary measures are taken to maintain security and stability in the areas of Türkiye’s cross-border anti-terror operations, and terrorist attacks are responded to in kind. Since January, 91 harassment incidents and attacks have been carried out by the PKK/YPG terrorist group in areas of Türkiye’s counterterrorism operations, and 777 terrorists have been “neutralized” with the immediate intervention of Turkish soldiers, he added.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the U.S., and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
On illegal crossings into Türkiye, the official added that thanks to additional effective measures, 4,931 people, including 369 terrorists, who tried to illegally cross into Türkiye’s borders, were apprehended since Jan. 1. Around 138,000 people were prevented before they crossed the border. Türkiye has been a key transit point for irregular migrants who want to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution. The country, which already hosts 4 million refugees, more than any other country in the world, is taking new measures at its borders to prevent a fresh influx of migrants.
Türkiye’s KFOR command
About Turkish soldiers who were deployed as part of a NATO force to maintain order amid tensions in Kosovo, the official said the task of the Turkish commando battalion is planned to continue until the beginning of September. In July, Türkiye deployed troops to Kosovo at the request of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command amid tensions in the Balkan country. Tensions rose in Kosovo following the election of ethnic Albanian mayors in four Serb-dominated municipalities in the country’s north in April. Serbs had boycotted the elections, and afterwards protested the results and tried to block the mayors from taking office. “In addition, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) command will be taken over by our country for one year starting from October,” the Turkish official said. The National Defense Ministry sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media, said Italy has been at the head of the command for many years, and “for the first time in many years, there will be a change.”
Regarding news that a ship waiting in Ukrainian ports had left the port and was heading toward the Turkish Straits, sources said: “We have been stating our stance openly and clearly from the beginning. There is a grain corridor with proven success and usefulness.” Under the landmark deal, around 33 million tons of grain were shipped from Ukrainian ports, the sources said, adding, “Our efforts are entirely in the direction of re-activating this grain initiative.” There is no alternative to the Black Sea grain deal, they stressed. On July 17, Russia suspended its participation in the deal, which it signed last July along with Türkiye, the U.N., and Ukraine to resume grain exports, from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, paused after the Russia-Ukraine war began in February 2022. But even when renewing the deal in previous months, Moscow complained that the Russian part of the agreement was not being implemented. Turkish sources said other countries are working on alternative routes, adding: “We are following these developments closely. The problem here is whether commercial ships can safely reach the Turkish Straits at this time of conflict. There is no problem with those ships reaching the Turkish Straits in passing through the straits.” Earlier, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the first vessel left Odesa’s port on Wednesday after the suspension of the Black Sea grain initiative in mid-July. “Container ship JOSEPH SCHULTE (Hong Kong flag) is proceeding through the corridor established for civilian vessels to/from the Black Sea ports of Ukraine. This transport corridor will be primarily used to evacuate ships that were in ports at the time of the full-scale invasion by Russia,” Kubrakov said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Ankara has been carrying out intense efforts and pushing diplomacy for the resumption of the Black Sea grain deal. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to Türkiye in August to discuss the deal. Türkiye, internationally praised for its unique mediator role between Ukraine and Russia, has repeatedly called on Kyiv and Moscow to end the war – now over 500 days old – through negotiations.