The United States on Feb. 14 condemned the killing of 13 kidnapped Turkish citizens in northern Iraq, after Turkish officials said they were executed by militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The executions, which included military, intelligence and police personnel, took place during a Turkish military operation launched on Feb. 10 against the PKK, in which 48 militants were also killed, according to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
"The United States deplores the death of Turkish citizens in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. We stand with our NATO Ally Turkey and extend our condolences to the families of those lost in the recent fighting," U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
The United States deplores the deaths of Turkish citizens in Iraq. We are united with @NATO Ally Turkey and offer our condolences to Turkey and the families affected by this tragedy. https://t.co/Hq7BK69umV— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) February 15, 2021
"If reports of the death of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organization, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest possible terms," the statement added.
Akar on Feb. 14 said that the PKK has executed 13 kidnapped Turks in a cave in northern Iraq amid a military operation against the group.
Turkey launched the military operation against the PKK in northern Iraq's Gara region, some 35 km (22 miles) south of the Turkish border, on Feb. 10 to secure its frontier and find citizens who had been kidnapped previously, he said.
The governor of Malatya province in southeast Turkey named six soldiers and two police officers, kidnapped in separate incidents in 2015 and 2016, as being among those killed in the cave.
"According to initial information given by two terrorists captured alive, our citizens were martyred at the start of the operation by the terrorist responsible for the cave," Akar said at the operation's control centre near the Iraq border.
A statement on a PKK website said some prisoners it was holding, including Turkish intelligence, police and military personnel, had died during clashes in the area. The group denied it had ever hurt prisoners.