bomb villages inside northern Iraq
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq - Turkish planes bombed
villages inside northern Iraq on Sunday
targeting Kurdish rebels in at least the second
such operation this month even as Ankara held
back from launching a ground assault.
"According to our preliminary reports, eight
Turkish warplanes bombed some villages along the
border near the Qandil mountains early today,"
said Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for the Kurdish
militia that provides security in northern Iraq.
In Ankara the Turkish army confirmed its
warplanes had carried out air strikes on Kurdish
rebel targets in northern Iraq.
The planes hit the "regions of Zap, Hakurk and
Avasin as well as the Qandil mountains", the
general staff said in a statement.
The rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which
has waged a deadly insurgency in southeastern
Turkey since 1984, maintains a network of
rear-bases in the rugged Qandil mountains near
where the borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey meet.
The Turkish military said the bombardment began
at 1:00 am (2300 GMT) and all its aircraft had
returned safely to base by 4:15 am (0215 GMT).
Artillery continued to pound the targets once
the planes had left.
Turkey's CNN-Turk television said more than 20
planes took part in the air strikes, while the
NTV news channel said that some 50 planes had
The Anatolia news agency said "many F-16 fighter
jets", equipped to carry out night-time
missions, took off from a base in Diyarbakir
province in southeastern Turkey and returned
about three hours later.
The military stressed that the raids targeted
the PKK, not Iraqi Kurds.
Mustafa OzerTurkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil
Cicek warned Ankara would carry out more
cross-border strikes, if necessary.
"Such operations will continue if need be," the
Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying.
"The government, working in harmony with all
state institutions, primarily the armed forces,
is determined to take this scourge off the
Yawar said the air strikes damaged some bridges
connecting villages near the Qandil mountains.
"Some familes are fleeing from the villages
attacked today. We have dispatched our border
teams to check the casualties and damage," he
But Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan denied
that any civilian areas had been hit.
"You should trust statements made by the Turkish
armed forces," Babacan said in televised
The air strikes were at least the second Turkish
operation against the PKK inside Iraq this
month, Turkish helicopters pounded suspected
rebel rear-bases on December 1.
The Turkish parliament gave the army
authorisation to launch cross-border operations
in October but Ankara has so far held back from
any ground assault amid strong lobbying by
The vote by MPs followed a PKK ambush against
Turkish troops in which 12 soldiers were killed
and eight captured. The captives were released
The United States has expressed concern that any
ground incursion might unsettle the autonomous
Kurdish region of northern Iraq which is the
most stable area of the country.
Mustafa OzerBut Turkey has warned Iraq that it
reserves the right to resort to a ground
In recent weeks Turkey has deployed around
100,000 soldiers along its 380-kilometre
(235-mile) border with Iraq.
Baghdad has promised to rein in the PKK, and in
early November President George W. Bush said
Washington would provide Ankara with "real-time"
information on rebel movements from its
The pledge was widely regarded as tacit US
approval for Turkey to carry out air strikes and
limited cross-border operations against PKK
The United States, like the European Union,
blacklists the PKK as a terrorist organization.
More than 37,000 people have been killed since
the rebels took up arms against Ankara in 1984,
drawing a scorched earth response from the
military in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
Kurds straddle the borders between Iraq, Iran,
Syria and Turkey and form significant minorities
in all four countries.