dimanche 16 décembre 2007

Turkish warplanes bomb terrorist targets in Iraq

Turkish warplanes bombed outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq early on Sunday, the Turkish military said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Turkey's deputy prime minister urged terrorists to surrender after the airstrike. Cemil Çiçek, who is also the government spokesman, said Turkey would press ahead with operations against PKK bases in northern Iraq "with determination when necessary."

It was the first confirmed operation with fighter jets against terrorist targets across the border since the invasion of Iraq, although Turkey has hit Iraqi territory with ground-based artillery and via helicopter. The attack follows a promise last month by the United States to share intelligence about the terrorists with Turkey.

Private NTV television said some 50 warplanes, taking off from bases in eastern and western Turkey, were involved in the raids. One woman was killed in the airstrikes, a local official in Iraq said.

The warplanes bombed PKK targets in regions close to the border with Turkey as well as in the Kandil Mountains, which lie further away from the frontier, the military's statement said. All planes returned to their bases safely, it added. After the planes left the operation zone, the army continued firing on the targets with long-range weapons, the military stated. Artillery units could be seen firing shells toward Iraq in the early hours of Sunday from the town of Çukurca, where the borders of Turkey, Iran and Iraq meet.

Earlier this month, the military said it fired on a group of about 50 to 60 PKK terrorists inside Iraqi territory, inflicting "significant losses."

Abdullah Ibrahim, a top local official in the Iraqi administrative center of Sangasar, said Turkish warplanes bombarded 10 villages, killing one woman and injuring two others. Ibrahim acknowledged that there were terrorist bases in the area, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) from the Turkish border, but said they were far from the villages that were hit.

After Iraqi officials' claims, the Turkish military made a statement and vowed to press ahead with operations against the PKK "according to military needs with determination." It said the operation was directed against the PKK and not against the local population in northern Iraq. The military statement also urged the media to keep out of the region for their safety.

An Iraqi army officer with the border guard said the attack was on three villages in Iraq's Kandil Mountains, where Turkish and Iranian terrorists are based. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

Private NTV television claimed that one of the targets hit was a PKK "command center" in northern Iraq. PKK "targets in the regions of Zap, Avasin and Hakourk located in Iraq's north, and deep in the Kandil Mountains ... were hit through a large-scope aerial operation of the Turkish Air Force," the military said.

It said the air strikes began at 1 a.m. (2300 GMT, Saturday) local time and the planes returned at 4:15 a.m. (0215 GMT). Turkish news reports said the planes had taken off from an air base in Diyarbakır, southeastern Turkey.
Turkish forces have periodically shelled suspected terrorist 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.
Today's Zaman with wires Ankara


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