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Turkish warplanes strike Kurdish militant positions in Iraq after attack kills soldier, wounds 4

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey carried out a new round of airstrikes targeting Kurdish militants in neighboring Iraq on Tuesday, Turkey’s defense ministry said, hours after a Turkish soldier was killed and four others were wounded in an attack in the region.

Turkey often launches strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq it believes to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a banned Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since the 1980s.

On Tuesday, the Turkish warplanes struck suspected PKK positions in the Metina, Zap, Hakurk, Gara and Qandil regions in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, according to a ministry statement. The jets reportedly destroyed 27 PKK targets, including caves, bunkers, and shelters. There was no immediate comment from the PKK.

“We have not left the blood of any of our martyrs on the ground,” the ministry said, suggesting that the airstrikes were in retaliation to the attack that killed the Turkish soldier and wounded four others.

Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan held high-level meetings with his counterpart Fuad Hussein and other Iraqi officials to discuss the PKK’s presence in Iraq and measures to be taken against the organization.

A joint statement issued by the two countries said both sides had “stressed that the PKK organization represents a security threat to both Turkey and Iraq” and that its presence in Iraq “represents a violation of the Iraqi constitution.”

The PKK is not designated a terrorist organization in Iraq, but is banned from launching operations against Turkey from Iraqi territory. It nevertheless has a foothold in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, where the central Iraqi government does not have much influence.

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is expected to visit Iraq next month, has said that his country is determined to end PKK’s presence in Iraq this summer, suggesting a possible large-scale military offensive into the region.