On May 17th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan boasted that Turkish intelligence “neutralized” Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) former Syria head Halef al-Muhammed in Iraq.
The maneuver, carried out jointly by the Turkish intelligence service and the armed forces, is part of Turkey’s multiple air offensives and cross-border attacks into northern Iraq to destroy the rear bases of the PKK, which Ankara deems a terrorist operation.
Halef El Muhammed, better known as Sofi Nurettin, was one of the ringleaders of the organization and one of the most influential figures in the PKK’s organizational structure.
“PKK terror group’s ringleader in Syria, codenamed Sofi Nurettin, was neutralized by Turkish forces in northern Iraq,” Erdoğan said during the press conference, adding that the neutralized individual was guilty of many attacks against Turkish soldiers in Turkey’s anti-terror operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch.
However, his area of influence was focused in Syria and not in Iraq, where he would have been killed. Nurettin was “the man who designed the PKK in Syria” and directed all the organization’s operations there, according to local media.
“Nurettin’s activities, both in the Kurdistan Region and in Syria, confirm Turkey’s accusation that Kurdish organizations in northeastern Syria are part of the PKK,” Erdogan said. “The situation of Sofi Nurettin (…) revealed that it is impossible to deny the fact that the PKK/KCK [the PKK’s political wing] and the PYD [Democratic Union Party] / YPG [People’s Protection Units] are the same organization.”
The Turkish president revealed the assassination of the senior PKK commander in a televised appearance after the Council of Ministers.
During the statement, Erdogan accused Nurettin of being behind the execution of 13 Turkish hostages, including military and police officers, during a failed operation in January to free them in the Gara mountain, located some 50 kilometers northeast of Duhok.
“I remind you that the same fate awaits everyone who betrays this country, fires a bullet, harms our people, threatens the integrity of our country, the unity of our nation, and the survival of our state,” he said.
The Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids against PKK bases in northern Iraq.
Turkey launched another operation in February against PKK rebels holed up in the northern Iraqi region of Dohuk.
That raid created controversy because it was designed in part to rescue 12 Turkish soldiers and an Iraqi held captive by the PKK in a cave.
Turkey accused the PKK of executing the 13 men before they could be freed.
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