Turkish helicopters hit northern Iraq villages: TV

Turkish military helicopters bombed villages in northern Iraq in strikes directed against Kurdish rebels, two Turkish television channels reported on Tuesday.CNN Turk television, quoting Iraqi officials, said the villages were empty and no one was killed in the attack.

The reports could not be immediately confirmed.

Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops along its border with Iraq for a possible incursion to crush rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Ankara claims the right of self-defense under international law to attack the PKK inside Iraqi territory and is known to have staged limited cross-border operations against the PKK.

Asked in parliament about the report that PKK premises in northern Iraq had been bombed, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said: “I am not aware (of that).”

After meeting U.S. President George W. Bush last week to discuss the issue, Erdogan said the army would go ahead with an incursion against the militants in Iraq, but did not say when.

The armed forces chief, General Yasar Buyukanit, said last Friday the military was ready and waiting for the government to order the cross-border operation, according to media reports.

Some 3,000 rebels use northern Iraq as a base for attacks in Turkey. The PKK took up arms in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic homeland in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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