Officials: Turkey withdraws from Iraq
By YAHYA BARZANJI, Associated Press Writer
11 minutes ago
KIRKUK, Iraq - Turkey sent hundreds of troops about 1
1/2 miles into northern Iraq early Tuesday in an
operation against Kurdish rebels but then withdrew
them later in the day, Kurdish officials said.
Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the regional Kurdistan
government, told The Associated Press that the 300
Turkish troops had withdrawn about 15 hours after
entering Iraq about 3 a.m.
Jabar Yawar, a spokesman for Kurdistan's Peshmerga
security forces in Irbil, Iraq, told the AP that
"today's Turkish military operation was a limited one,
and the troops withdrew from Iraqi territory."
Turkish officials didn't immediately respond to
requests for comment about the withdrawal.
The Iraqi government had called the incursion an
unacceptable action that would lead to "complicated
The incursion came after U.S. officials said they
provided Turkish officials with intelligence for
airstrikes Sunday in northern Iraq against rebel
positions, but also asked them to limit their
The incursion of about 300 troops the first
confirmed Turkish ground operation inside Iraq since
the U.S. invasion of Iraq did not represent a
large-scale push that some feared could destabilize a
relatively calm part of Iraq. In November, the Turkish
military reportedly has massed 100,000 troops along
Yawar said the Turkish forces crossed into an area
near the border with Iran, about 75 miles north of the
city of Irbil. Abdullah described the region as a
deserted mountainous frontier area.
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
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to
Baghdad, said the U.S., Iraq and Turkey have a "common
interest" in stopping Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq,
but she cautioned against action that could
destabilize the region.
"This is a circumstance in which the U.S. has
constantly counseled that we need an overall
comprehensive approach to this problem and that no one
should do anything that threatens to destabilize the
north," she said.
Washington is trying to balance support for two key
allies: the Turkish government and the Iraqi Kurds.
The U.S. remains opposed to any major Turkish military
operation into northern Iraq which could disrupt one
of the calmest areas of Iraq.
It was not clear how long the Turkish soldiers who
entered Iraq on Tuesday would stay, but a Turkish
government official in a position to know about the
operation 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.
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. But Iraq rejects any
Turkish interference in Iraq," he said, adding that
the Iraqi government was given no warning about the
Asked about a reported clash between the Turkish
troops and Kurdish rebels inside Iraq, Turkish
President Abdullah Gul said: "From now on, whatever is
necessary in the struggle against terrorism, it is
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said
his country had no intention of violating Iraq's
territorial integrity or harming civilians, "but the
PKK terrorist organization's camps there are terrorist
camps, they are our enemy."
"They threaten our national unity and we are using our
rights stemming from international laws to defend
ourselves against this threat," Erdogan said.
"We are taking all means that are available to us be
they political, diplomatic, military, social or
economic and are using them," he said. "At the
moment the army is doing whatever is necessary. Our
armed forces will continue to do whatever is
Abdullah, the spokesman for the regional Kurdish
government, was critical of the operation.
"We are against any Turkish incursion inside Iraqi
territory. This is regarded as a violation of Iraq's
sovereignty," he said. "We don't expect that problems
between Turkey and the PKK rebels will be solved by a
In Sunday's airstrikes, 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.
Iraq's parliament on Monday condemned the airstrike,
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
The incursion began hours before Rice arrived in
Kirkuk, a city that Iraq's Kurds call their Jerusalem
in the oil-rich territory claimed by many. She met
members of a civilian-military reconstruction unit and
provincial politicians before flying to 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.
In an unrelated overnight raid, about 250 Iraqi police
raided three villages near Hawija, 30 miles south west
of Kirkuk and 150 miles north of Baghdad in an
operation against suspected al-Qaida in Iraq
militants, said provincial police chief Brig. Sarhat
In a six-hour raid that began at 1 a.m., the 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.
Also on Tuesday, at least 11 people were killed when a
suicide bomber blew himself up north of Baghdad,
A man wearing a suicide belt entered a popular cafe in
Abbara village, about 45 miles north of Baghdad, a
police officer said on condition of anonymity as he
was not authorized to speak to the media.
In addition to those killed, at least 18 others were
wounded as they sipped on soda and tea when the bomber
struck shortly after 7 p.m.
Just six miles to the south in central Baqouba, a
suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into
a police checkpoint, killing two and wounding 15
others, police said.
Both attacks took place in turbulent Diyala province,
which despite the nationwide decrease in violence of
nearly 60 percent in the last six months, has seen
insurgent activity continue.
In central Baghdad, a parked car bomb targeting a
police patrol went off, killing four people and
wounding seven others, police said.
An officer speaking on condition of anonymity because
he was not authorized to speak to the press said two
police officers and two civilians were among those
Associated Press writer Hamid Ahmed in Baghdad
contributed to this report.