UPDATE - Turkish security forces 'neutralized' nearly 1,000 terrorists since Jan. 1

UPDATE - Turkish security forces 'neutralized' nearly 1,000 terrorists since Jan. 1

53 terrorists ‘neutralized’ over last week, including ones hiding out across border in Iraq, northern Syria, says National Defense Ministry official

ADDS MORE INFORMATION, REVISES DECK

By Diyar Guldogan

Türkiye has "neutralized" a total of 995 PKK/YPG terrorists since Jan. 1, including ones hiding out across the border in Iraq and northern Syria, the National Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

"Fifty-three terrorists have been neutralized in the last week, including ones in Iraq and northern Syria, with the strategy of eliminating terrorism at its source, which we resolutely implement," a National Defense Ministry official told reporters in a background briefing in the capital Ankara.

The total number of terrorists “neutralized” during the year has now reached 995, he added.

Turkish authorities use the term “neutralize” to imply that the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.

His remarks came a day after five Turkish soldiers were killed in harassment fire by the terrorist PKK in northern Iraq, where Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Lock last year in April to root out terrorists hiding in the border region.

The ministry official said: "586 terrorists have been neutralized so far in the Claw-Lock Operation in northern Iraq."


- 'Large-scale operations continue'

On Wednesday's harassment fire, National Defense Ministry sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media, said anti-terror operations continue in the region.

"Harassment and attacks may be carried out by the terrorist organization during search and scanning activities. The necessary response is given immediately," a source added.

"Large-scale operations continue in the region. Each cave in the Operation Claw-Lock area will be entered, and these activities will continue until that area is completely cleared of terrorism.”

In Syria, the official said, all necessary measures are taken to maintain security and stability in the operation areas, and terrorist attacks are responded to in kind.

Since this January, 86 harassment incidents and attacks have been carried out by the PKK/YPG terrorist group in Türkiye's operation areas, and 744 terrorists were “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 US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the terrorist PKK’s Syrian branch.

On illegal crossings into Türkiye, the official said thanks to additional effective measures, over 4,750 people, including 356 terrorists, who tried to illegally cross Türkiye's borders have been caught since Jan. 1. Nearly 135,000 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.​​​​​​​


- Ties with Greece

About recent US plans to build new bases on Aegean islands, National Defense Ministry sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media, said Türkiye is "closely" following developments.

"We follow and evaluate all the developments around our country in the field of defense and security. There is no final decision on this issue at the moment, but we are following developments closely," a source said.

Last week, the US House of Representatives approved an amendment to examine a plan to expand the US military presence and construct bases on Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

On recent "positive" messages from Greece toward Türkiye, the sources said: "Both sides are making efforts to maintain the positive atmosphere that has emerged with Greece recently."

Türkiye wants to continue confidence-building measures meetings, the sources said, adding: "We will work with the Greeks at the technical level to establish a calendar for these meetings, and we will continue our contacts."

Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, has protested repeated provocative actions and rhetoric by Greece in the region in recent years, including arming islands near Turkish shores that are demilitarized under treaty obligations, saying such moves frustrate its good faith efforts towards peace.​​​​​​​

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