Turkish Military Claims it Killed 34 Kurdish Fighters in Iraq

Turkey Kills 34 Kurdish Fighters in Northern Iraq
Mark Tran
The Guardian UK


Turkey has carried out air sorties and shelling against Kurdish positions inside northern Iraq.

Reuters said Turkish war planes flew as deep as 13 miles into Iraqi territory and some 300 ground troops advanced about six miles, killing 34 fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers party.

"Further 'hot pursuit' raids into northern Iraq can be expected, though none have taken place so far today," a military official said, adding that all Turkish troops involved in the operations were now back in Turkey.

Officials said the sorties were small, similar to those conducted in the past across the mountainous border, not the large-scale offensive that US and Iraqi authorities are trying to avert.

Turkish troops also shelled suspected Kurdish positions across the border as recently as last night, the Associated Press reported.

The report of small-scale incursions into northern Iraq came as Turkey's civilian and military leaders met to discuss the scope and duration of a possible large-scale offensive amid mounting pressure for action.

Several newspapers printed the pictures of eight missing soldiers, allegedly held hostage by the separatist fighters. During funerals for 12 soldiers yesterday, tens of thousands of mourners chanted slogans, pushing the government to order an offensive against Kurdish fighters.

Turkey's parliament last week approved a military attack, and the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said yesterday his country "cannot wait forever" to strike at the PKK.

The European Union today repeated its condemnation of attacks on Turkey launched by Kurdish fighters hiding across the border in Iraq, but urged Turkey and Iraq to work out joint measures to end the hostilities.

Turkey is negotiating to join the EU and the Turkish government has to consider the damage that military action could inflict on accession talks.

US officials yesterday publicly rebuked Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq for failing to curb the Kurdish fighters based in the autonomous region.

"We are not pleased with the lack of action," David Satterfield, the US state department's senior Iraq adviser, told reporters in Washington.

He said Kurdish leaders had to take responsibility for dealing with the fighters, although he did not go as far as calling on them to take military action against the PKK.

Iraq PM Orders Crackdown on PKK
Ammar Karim
Middle East Online


Iraq's prime minister ordered a crackdown Tuesday on Kurdish PKK rebels, saying Iraq will no longer tolerate the "terrorist" group on its soil, amid Turkish threats of a military incursion.

"The PKK is a bad terrorist organisation and we have taken a decision to close its offices and not allow them to work on Iraqi soil," Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said after he met visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.

"We are putting all our efforts to eliminate their terrorist activities that threaten Iraq and Turkey," said Maliki, who has been under pressure from Ankara and Washington to act against the Iraq-based rebels attacking Turkey.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who is a Kurd, said earlier that Iraq had begun undertaking a series of measures to thwart the rebels, "including restricting their movements, (their) funding and closing of their offices".

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) largely operates clandestinely through local social groups in the three northern Iraqi Kurdish provinces of Sulaimaniyah, Arbil and Dohuk.

Maliki said he was keen to maintain healthy relations with Turkey and "an increase in political dialogue was the way….not adopting a military action" to solve the Kurdish rebel issue.

Babacan used his high-profile visit to reassure Iraq that Turkey wants a diplomatic solution to the problem of Kurdish rebel bases.

"Politics, dialogue, diplomacy, culture and economy are the measures to deal with this crisis," the Turkish minister said at a joint news conference in Baghdad with Zebari.

"We do not want to sacrifice our cultural and economic relations with Iraq for the sake of a terror organisation," he said, referring to the PKK which has waged deadly insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

But Babacan rejected a truce offer made by the PKK on Monday in return for an end to Turkish military action.

"The issue of ceasefire is an issue between two countries and two armies and not with a terror organisation," he said.

Babacan said diplomacy remained the best way to resolve the crisis despite the "huge anger" in Turkey over the deaths of 12 soldiers and kidnapping of eight others in a weekend attack by the rebels on a patrol near the border.

Tens of thousands of Turks protested across Turkey on Tuesday during the funerals of the slain soldiers as a pro-Kurdish news agency published pictures of the eight soldiers.

"We are all soldiers, we will smash the PKK," mourners chanted at one such funeral, while a placard at another funeral read "Treacherous Talabani… give us the dogs," referring to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Talabani -- also a Kurd -- has said that Baghdad is unable to capture and hand over PKK rebels based in northern Iraq as requested by Ankara.

In London, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara had still not ruled out military action, sanctioned by parliament last week.

"The Iraqi government must know that we can exercise this mandate we have received from the Turkish parliament at any time," Erdogan said after talks with his British counterpart Gordon Brown.

Brown said he understood the anger and frustration in Turkey over the presence of Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

"I can assure you we are doing everything in our power… to make sure that there is no safe haven for terrorist organisations in that part of Iraq threatening Turkey," he said.

Ahead of his talks in London, Erdogan had raised the possibility of joint action with the United States against PKK bases inside Iraq.

As he flew into London, he told the mass-selling Turkish daily Hurriyet that he had discussed with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the possibility of joint action against the rebels.

Erdogan said he received the signal that Washington might become involved during a telephone conversation with Rice on Sunday.

"She was worried. I saw she was in favour of a joint operation," he said. "She asked for a few days' time and said she would come back to us."

Washington said Tuesday that it may provide Turkey with intelligence to help its armed forces strike Kurdish rebels based in Iraq, but downplayed talk of joint military operations.

"Actionable intelligence is something that we can provide," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

The United States, which uses the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey to supply its forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, fears any unilateral military action by Turkey could wreck efforts to stabilise Iraq.


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