Friday, May 2, 2008

Turkey Confirms Air Strikes on Kurd Rebels in Northern Iraq

Turkey Confirms Air Strikes on Kurd Rebels in Northern Iraq

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Ankara/Arbil, Iraq - Turkish warplanes launched intensive bombing raids on Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq overnight, the Turkish General Staff said on Friday, but there were no reports of any casualties.

Turkish forces have stepped up strikes against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq in recent weeks in addition to operations against them in Turkey. Turkish troops conducted a large-scale incursion across the border in February.

"Turkish Air Force planes struck targets belonging to the terror group in a comprehensive and effective air operation from 2300 (2000 GMT)," the General Staff said in a statement on its website.

The military said all its planes had returned safely to base after the attack which was launched after PKK targets were identified in the Qandil mountain region. It did not make any mention of casualties.

The PKK uses northern Iraq as a base to stage attacks on Turkish territory. Turkey blames the PKK, which is fighting for an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey, for the deaths of more than 40,000 people.

A rebel spokesman earlier said that Turkish warplanes struck targets in northern Iraq overnight but there were no reports of any casualties.

He said the raids began at 11.30 p.m. (2130 GMT) and lasted for three hours, targeting bases belonging to the PKK and the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an off-shoot of the PKK fighting against Iran.

"There has been heavy bombing and many Turkish planes were involved. So far, we have no word of any casualties," PKK spokesman Ahmed Danees told Reuters by telephone.

Military sources told Reuters that at least 30 planes were involved in the raids, which they said targeted senior PKK members in Iraq's remote Qandil mountains.

The United States and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist organization.

The February incursion, during which the army said it killed 240 guerrillas and lost 27 of its own men, lasted eight days in harsh winter conditions. The head of the armed forces said after the withdrawal that further land operations could follow.

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