Turkey strikes Kurdish groups in Iraq, Syria after Istanbul explosion

Turkey blamed the PKK and YPG for a deadly explosion in Istanbul, a charge the group has denied.

 Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 24, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH)
Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province October 24, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH)

Turkey struck sites belonging to the Kurdish groups in northern Syria and Iraq on Saturday night in response to a recent bombing in Istanbul, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced.

The airstrikes, called Operation Claw-Sword, targeted sites belonging to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).

"Time for reckoning! The scoundrels are being held accountable for the treacherous attacks!" wrote the Turkish Defense Ministry on its Twitter account. The ministry published a video of the strikes as well, writing "Terror nests are razed with precision hits!"

The Defense Ministry stated that it carried out the strikes in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter which allows states to act in self defense against an armed attack.

Farhad Shami, a spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces militia, tweeted that sites in Kobane, Dahir al-Arab, al-Beilonya, Tal Rif'at, Zarkan and Qazali were targeted in the airstrikes.

 Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) stand atop a building at the eastern outskirts of Raqqa city, Syria June 7, 2017. (credit: RODI SAID / REUTERS) Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) stand atop a building at the eastern outskirts of Raqqa city, Syria June 7, 2017. (credit: RODI SAID / REUTERS)

Mazloum Abdi, General Commander of the SDF, warned that the "Turkish bombing of our safe areas threatens the whole region."

"We are making every effort to avoid a major catastrophe. If war erupts, all will be effected. The attacks will not be limited to our regions which are now being subjected to aggressive and barbaric bombing," tweeted Abdi.

Turkey blames Istanbul bombing on Kurdish groups

Last week, six people were killed and 81 others were injured in a bombing on Istanbul's Istiklal Avenue, an attack the Turkish government has blamed on the PKK and YPG.

Last week, a Turkish official told Reuters that Turkey planned to pursue targets in northern Syria in light of the bombing.

Threats posed by Kurdish militants or Islamic State on Turkey are unacceptable, the official told Reuters, adding that Ankara will clear threats along its southern border "one way or another."

"Syria is a national security problem for Turkey. There is work being done on this already," the official said, declining to be named as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

"There is an ongoing operation against the PKK in Iraq. There are certain targets in Syria after that is completed."

The PKK denied involvement in the attack, expressing condolences to the families of the victims.

"We have nothing to do with this incident and it is well-known by the public that we would not target civilians directly or approve of actions directed at civilians," said the PKK in a statement to Kurdish Firat News Agency. "We are a movement waging a righteous and legitimate struggle for freedom. We act based on a perspective that seeks to create a common, democratic, free and equal future with the society of Turkey. From this standpoint, us targeting the civilian population in any way is definitely out of the question."

Reuters contributed to this report.