Turkish planes hit rebel targets in Iraq
By SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 57
ANKARA, Turkey - Turkish warplanes hit Kurdish rebel
targets in northern Iraq early Sunday, Turkey's
military said, the first such attack since the
U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. An Iraqi official said the
planes attacked several villages, killing one woman.
Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek urged Kurdish
separatists to surrender and said Turkey would press
ahead with operations against rebel bases in northern
Iraq "with determination when necessary."
The attack came a month after the United States
promised to share intelligence with Turkey about the
Kurdistan Workers Party, which seeks autonomy for the
Kurdish minority in southeastern Turkey and has
hideouts in northern Iraq.
But the U.S. and Iraq have urged Turkey to avoid a
major operation against PKK bases in northern Iraq for
fear of destabilizing the most stable region in the
country. Turkey has massed tens of thousands of
Turkish troops along the border with Iraq amid a
series of attacks by Kurdish insurgents.
The fighter jets hit rebel close to the border with
Turkey and in Qandil mountain further away from the
frontier, the military said in a statement on its Web
site. It said the operation was directed against the
PKK and not against the local population.
All planes returned to their bases safely and the army
continued firing on the targets with long-range
weapons, the military said. Artillery units fired
shells toward Iraq from the town of Cukurca, where the
borders of Turkey, Iran and Iraq meet, footage from
the private Dogan news agency showed.
Private NTV television said some 50 warplanes were
involved in the airstrikes, taking off from bases in
eastern and western Turkey.
It was Turkey's first confirmed attack with fighter
jets against rebel targets across the border since the
2003 invasion of Iraq. Last month, Iraqi officials
said Turkish helicopter gunships attacked abandoned
villages inside Iraq.
A top Iraqi official said Turkish warplanes bombarded
10 Kurdish villages, killing one woman and injuring
Abdullah Ibrahim, a top local official in the
administrative center of Sangasar, acknowledged that
there were Kurdish rebel bases in the area, but said
they were far from the villages that were hit.
"The villagers are now scared and are hiding in nearby
caves. They lost all their properties," Ibrahim said.
An Iraqi army officer with the border guard said the
attack began about 2:30 a.m. on three villages in
Iraq's Qandil mountain chain, where Turkish and
Iranian Kurdish rebels are based. The officer spoke on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized
to release the information.
The villages are scattered in the Qandil mountains,
some as far as an hour's drive apart over steep roads
and paths. The region that was attacked was about 105
miles from the Turkish border.
The Turkish military vowed to press ahead with
operations against the PKK "according to military
needs with determination."
Earlier this month, the military said it fired on a
group of about 50 to 60 PKK guerrillas inside Iraqi
territory, inflicting "significant losses."
Turkish forces have periodically shelled suspected
rebel positions across the Iraqi border, and have
sometimes carried out "hot pursuits" limited raids
on the Iraqi side that sometimes last only a few hours.