Turkish planes hit rebel targets in Northern Iraq

ANKARA/SULAIMANIYA, Iraq – Turkish warplanes attacked Kurdish guerrilla targets in northern Iraq on Tuesday, Turkey’s General Staff said, but there were no reports of casualties or serious damage.

The latest strikes follow a series of cross-border raids on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) positions in the mountainous region since December.

Troops have also made small-scale raids across the border with the aim of crushing the rebel group.

Confirming an earlier report from an Iraqi Kurdish official, the General Staff said on its official Web site that its planes “effectively struck” targets in the regions of Zap-Sivi, Avasin-Basyan and Hakurk.

“Our planes returned to their bases safely after successfully completing their duties,” the statement said.

Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for the Kurdish Peshmerga security forces from Iraq’s largely autonomous region of Kurdistan, said Turkish artillery began shelling around the town of Amadiya in Dahuk province just before midday (4:00 a.m. EST).

Turkey says 3,000 PKK rebels are based in the northern Iraqi mountains, from where they launch raids on Turkish targets.

Turkey’s General Staff said a senior general, Ergin Saygun, visited Baghdad on Tuesday for security talks with Iraqi and U.S. military top brass, including the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus.

“(The United States and Turkey) confirmed their resolve to cooperate in the fight against terrorism,” it said.

Turkey, like the United States and European Union, considers the PKK a terrorist group, holding it responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since it began an armed struggle for a separate Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

A Reuters reporter in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir earlier said two Turkish F-16 warplanes had been seen flying over the border province of Hakkari heading towards Iraq.

Four Turkish tanks had also been seen crossing the same province towards the Iraqi border, where Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops.

The shelling was the latest reported cross-border attacks by Turkey since two other areas in Dahuk were shelled on January 11, again without causing significant damage or injury.

On January 3, a bomb attack blamed on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas killed six people in Diyarbakir.

Turkey’s parliament approved a resolution in October giving the legal basis for operations over one year. Turkey claims the right under international law to carry out cross-border attacks.

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