Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Turkey Attacks PKK Positions Inside Iraq


Turkish warplanes and troops attacked Kurdish rebels inside Northern Iraq this week, security sources said on Wednesday.

Turkey moved more troops to the mountainous border, keeping up pressure on the Iraqi Government to honour promises to crack down on an estimated 3,000 rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who use the region as a base.

"Further 'hot pursuit' raids into northern Iraq can be expected, though none have taken place so far today (Wednesday)," a military official said. "We are reinforcing our troops near the border at Silopi and Uludere with men drawn from other parts of the country,"

Thirty four PKK rebels were killed in the sorties and all Turkish troops involved in the operations were now inside Turkey. Turkish military sources claimed.
But Abdul Rahman Jaderji, a PKK spokesman in northern Iraq, told Reuters there had been no direct fighting between the two sides since clashes on Sunday in which 12 soldiers were killed.

However Ankara wants to hold back from any major incursion for now to give diplomacy a chance. The Turkish official described as a "final chance" for diplomacy a planned visit by an Iraqi delegation to Ankara on Thursday. At Turkey's request, the team will be headed by Iraqi Defence Minister General Abdel Qader Jassim. It will also include Iraq's National Security Minister Shirwan al Waeli.

"The prime minister has indicated this meeting could produce economic sanctions, for example, cutting off electricity to northern Iraq or the closure or slowing down of traffic at the Habur border gate," said Suat Kiniklioglu, an AK Party spokesperson said

Northern Iraq depends heavily on Turkey for power, water and many food supplies. Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has infuriated Turkey by refusing to act against the PKK. He has said his peshmerga fighters would resist any Turkish incursion.

Both the US and Iraq fear a major Turkish incursion into northern Iraq could destabilise the whole region. But Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government is under heavy public pressure to take tough action, especially since Sunday's deaths.

Turkey, which has NATO's second biggest army, has deployed as many as 100,000 troops, backed by tanks, F-16 fighter jets and helicopter gunships, along the mountainous border in preparation for a possible large-scale strike. It is also straining US/Turkish relations which had been previously good.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group launched its armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

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