Turkish army sends soldiers into Iraq
By YAHYA BARZANJI, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 21
KIRKUK, Iraq - The Turkish army sent soldiers about
1.5 miles into northern Iraq in an overnight operation
on Tuesday, Kurdish officials said. A Turkish official
said the troops seeking Kurdish rebels were still in
Iraq by midmorning.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an
unannounced visit to Kirkuk, the hub of Iraq's
northern oil fields.
The troops crossed into an area near the border with
Iran, about 75 miles north of the city of Irbil, said
Jabar Yawar, a spokesman for Kurdistan's Peshmerga
About 300 Turkish troops crossed the border at 3 a.m.,
said Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the regional
Kurdistan government. He said the region was a
deserted mountainous frontier area.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad declined to comment on
reports of the Turkish operation.
The Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK, has battled for
autonomy for southeastern Turkey for more than two
decades and uses strongholds in northern Iraq for
It was not clear how long the Turkish soldiers who
entered Iraq on Tuesday would stay, but a Turkish
government official said they were sent as
"reinforcements" to existing Turkish troops stationed
further inside Iraq.
"They are going there as reinforcements, they are not
returning," the official said on condition of
anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the
About 1,200 Turkish military monitors have operated in
northern Iraq since 1996 with permission from local
authorities. A tank battalion has been stationed at a
former airport at the border town of Bamerni and a few
other military outposts were scattered in the region.
Ankara rotates the troops there.
Asked about a reported clash between the Turkish
troops and Kurdish rebels inside Iraq, Turkey's
President Abdullah Gul said: "From now on, whatever is
necessary in the struggle against terrorism, it is
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the
incursion "is not acceptable and will lead to
"Iraq understands the threat the PKK represents, one
that endangers Turkish security," al-Dabbagh said.
"But Iraq rejects any Turkish interference in Iraq."
Al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government was given no
warning about the incursion.
Abdullah, the spokesman for the regional Kurdish
government, also criticized the operation and
cautioned that Turkish forces should "be careful not
to harm civilians" who might be living in the area.
"If the Turkish military conducts limited operations
against the rebels, this is a problem of their
concern," he said. "But if this ... leads to harm for
civilians, we will absolutely be against that and
On Sunday, Turkey conducted airstrikes against rebels
from the Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern
Iraq. As many as 50 fighter jets were involved in the
attack, the biggest against the PKK in years.
An Iraqi official said the planes attacked several
villages, killing one woman. The rebels said two
civilians and five rebels died.
The Iraqi parliament on Monday condemned the bombing,
calling it an "outrageous" violation of Iraq's
sovereignty. Turkey said Sunday's attack used U.S.
intelligence and was carried out with tacit American
Washington is trying to balance support for two key
allies: the Turkish government and the Iraqi Kurds.
Despite their apparent support for a limited raid, the
U.S. remains firmly opposed to any major Turkish
military operation into northern Iraq which could
disrupt one of the calmest areas of Iraq and run the
risk of destabilizing the entire region.
Meanwhile, Rice was meeting members of a
civilian-military reconstruction unit based in Kirkuk
and provincial politicians. She was to meet Iraq's
central leadership later in Baghdad.
Sunni Arabs ended a yearlong political boycott earlier
this month in Kirkuk the hub of Iraq's northern oil
fields under a deal that sets aside government posts
for Arabs. It was the biggest step yet toward unity
before a referendum on the area's future.
Kirkuk is an especially coveted city for both the
Shiite-dominated Iraqi government in Baghdad and the
Kurdish one in Irbil. Kurds want to incorporate it
into their self-rule area, but the idea has met stiff
resistance from Arabs and a constitutionally required
referendum on the issue was delayed to next year.
Much of Iraq's vast oil wealth lies under the ground
in the region, as well as in the Shiite-controlled
south. Kurds control of the area's oil resources and
its cultural attachment to Kurdistan have been hotly
In an unrelated overnight raid, about 250 Iraqi police
raided three villages near Hawija, about 30 miles
southwest of Kirkuk, in an operation against suspected
al-Qaida in Iraq militants, said provincial police
chief Brig. Sarhat Qadir.
In a six-hour raid that began at 1 a.m., police
detained 12 al-Qaida in Iraq suspects as well as
another eight people, and seized a large weapons cache
that included 2,500 mortar rounds, 350 Katyusha
rockets, about 150 improvised bombs and about 500
mines, Qadir said.
Meanwhile, a car bomb targeting a police patrol
exploded in central Baghdad Tuesday afternoon. Two
policeman were killed, as were two civilians, police
said. Eight other people were wounded.
Associated Press Writer Hamid Ahmed in Baghdad
contributed to this report.