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Turkish planes bomb villages inside northern Iraq

AFP

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq  - Turkish planes bombed villages inside northern Iraq on Sunday targeting Kurdish rebels in at least the second such operation this month even as Ankara held back from launching a ground assault.

"According to our preliminary reports, eight Turkish warplanes bombed some villages along the border near the Qandil mountains early today," said Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for the Kurdish militia that provides security in northern Iraq.

In Ankara the Turkish army confirmed its warplanes had carried out air strikes on Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq.

The planes hit the "regions of Zap, Hakurk and Avasin as well as the Qandil mountains", the general staff said in a statement. 

The rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984, maintains a network of rear-bases in the rugged Qandil mountains near where the borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey meet. 

The Turkish military said the bombardment began at 1:00 am (2300 GMT) and all its aircraft had returned safely to base by 4:15 am (0215 GMT). Artillery continued to pound the targets once the planes had left.

Turkey's CNN-Turk television said more than 20 planes took part in the air strikes, while the NTV news channel said that some 50 planes had taken part.

The Anatolia news agency said "many F-16 fighter jets", equipped to carry out night-time missions, took off from a base in Diyarbakir province in southeastern Turkey and returned about three hours later.

The military stressed that the raids targeted the PKK, not Iraqi Kurds.

Mustafa OzerTurkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek warned Ankara would carry out more cross-border strikes, if necessary.

"Such operations will continue if need be," the Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying.

"The government, working in harmony with all state institutions, primarily the armed forces, is determined to take this scourge off the country's agenda."

Yawar said the air strikes damaged some bridges connecting villages near the Qandil mountains.

"Some familes are fleeing from the villages attacked today. We have dispatched our border teams to check the casualties and damage," he added.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan denied that any civilian areas had been hit.

"You should trust statements made by the Turkish armed forces," Babacan said in televised remarks.

The air strikes were at least the second Turkish operation against the PKK inside Iraq this month, Turkish helicopters pounded suspected rebel rear-bases on December 1.

The Turkish parliament gave the army authorisation to launch cross-border operations in October but Ankara has so far held back from any ground assault amid strong lobbying by Washington.

The vote by MPs followed a PKK ambush against Turkish troops in which 12 soldiers were killed and eight captured. The captives were released in November.

The United States has expressed concern that any ground incursion might unsettle the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq which is the most stable area of the country.

Mustafa OzerBut Turkey has warned Iraq that it reserves the right to resort to a ground assault.

In recent weeks Turkey has deployed around 100,000 soldiers along its 380-kilometre (235-mile) border with Iraq.

Baghdad has promised to rein in the PKK, and in early November President George W. Bush said Washington would provide Ankara with "real-time" information on rebel movements from its satellites.

The pledge was widely regarded as tacit US approval for Turkey to carry out air strikes and limited cross-border operations against PKK targets.

The United States, like the European Union, blacklists the PKK as a terrorist organization.

More than 37,000 people have been killed since the rebels took up arms against Ankara in 1984, drawing a scorched earth response from the military in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Kurds straddle the borders between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey and form significant minorities in all four countries.

 

 

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ناوه‌ندی هه‌ڵه‌بجه‌ دژ به‌ ئه‌نفالکردن و ژینۆسایدکردنی گه‌لی کورد (چاك) 
The Center of Halabja against Anfalization and Genocide of the Kurds - CHAK