Turkey launched a military drill Wednesday just across the border from a Syrian town it claims is controlled by Kurdish rebels. Reporting on the drill, the Associated Press says it is "a show of muscle aimed at Kurdish separatists pushing for autonomy within Turkey’s borders."
The drill raises the possibility that the Turkish military could begin targeting rebel bases of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, just as it has targeted rebel bases in northern Iraq.
"We will never tolerate initiatives that would threaten Turkey’s security,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an address to the nation Tuesday.
Around 25 tanks performed high-speed maneuvers Wednesday near the Turkish town of Nusaybin, a few kilometers north of the Syrian town of Qamishli.
“This is a routine exercise, it will continue for a few days,” the state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Turhan Ayvaz, governor of Mardin province, as saying.
The government at Ankara last week said that Turkish Kurdish rebels have seized control of five towns along the border, in collaboration with ethnic Kurds in Syria. Turkey claims that many Kurds migrated to Syria from bases in northern Iraq, taking advantage of the Syrian civil war.
Turkey moved anti-aircraft missile batteries to the Syrian border after Syria downed a Turkish reconnaissance jet in June, and it recently began deploying tanks to border areas.