Turkiye holds 18 people for ‘praising terrorism’ after soldiers killed in Iraq

Turkiye holds 18 people for ‘praising terrorism’ after soldiers killed in Iraq

ANKARA (Reuters): Turkish police have detained 18 people for “praising terrorism” after the killing of soldiers last week, while a high-level outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) member was “neutralized” in northern Iraq, authorities said on Monday.

Nine Turkish soldiers died in clashes with the PKK in northern Iraq on Friday, prompting Ankara to conduct air strikes and operations both there and in northern Syria.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkiye, the United States and the European Union, took up arms in 1984 for the rights of ethnic Kurdish people. Turkish forces regularly strike PKK militants based in the mountains of northern Iraq.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on social media that police had detained 18 people for “praising a terrorist organization,” “spreading terrorism propaganda,” and “spreading misleading information” over Turkiye’s operations in Iraq.

Arrest warrants were issued for 19 others in Turkiye and 133 abroad, Yerlikaya added, without giving further details.

A Turkish security source said that National Intelligence Agency (MIT) had “neutralized” Hulya Mercen, a high-level PKK member who led several attacks on Turkish troops in the past, in northern Iraq’s Metina region.

Many other PKK militants have also been “neutralized” in operations since Friday, the defense ministry said, using a term typically meaning killed.

There was no immediate reaction from the PKK, which seldom confirms attacks against it.

Schools across Turkiye observed a minute’s silence on Monday morning to honor the dead soldiers, the government said.