Middle East

Turkish jets hit Kurdish rebel bases in north Iraq: army

A Turkish military helicopter near the Iraqi border where thousands of Turkish troops have launched a ground and air offensive against PKK fighters, October 21 2011.(REUTERS/Osman Orsal)

ANKARA:  Turkey's military jets on Friday hit Kurdish rebel hideouts in northern Iraq where members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are holed up, the army said.

"Three targets belonging to the separatist terrorist organisation in the Zap region... were effectively hit by Turkish air force planes," the General Staff said in a statement posted on its website.

The army did not provide any details about casualties from the air strikes, which occurred on the same day as five Kurdish rebels were killed in another army operation in Kurdish-majority southeastern Turkey.

In Iraq, PKK spokesman Bakhtiar Dogan confirmed the air raids but said information on casualties was not available.

"Turkish aircraft have since yesterday (Thursday) bombed the Zap and Abshin areas from time to time," he told AFP.

Fighting between Turkish forces and PKK rebels has escalated in recent months.

In December, Turkish air strikes killed 34 Kurdish smugglers near the Iraqi border in an attack which the government said had been a military blunder, as commanders had mistaken them for PKK fighters.

Most of the victims were less than 20 years old.

Meanwhile, in Turkey's Batman province, Kurdish rebels clashed with Turkish troopss who carried out a raid early Friday in a rural area near the town of Kozluk, local sources said.

The gun battle, which lasted about an hour and a half, began after PKK rebels refused to heed a call from security forces to surrender, they added.

Turkey in October launched a major air and land offensive against the rebels in the southeast of the country and in neighbouring northern Iraq after 24 of its troops were killed in a night-time ambush by rebels.

In recent months, the government has also intensified pressure on alleged sympathisers of Kurdish separatist rebels.

The drive is part of a crackdown on the banned Kudish Communities Union (KCK), suspected to be the political wing of the PKK.

Turkish authorities accuse the group of trying to topple state institutions in the south and southeast and trying to foment a rebellion.

Since 2009, about 700 people -- including lawmakers, intellectuals and mayors -- have been arrested for alleged links to the KCK, according to the government. Kurdish sources however put the number at around 3,500.

The PKK took up arms in southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives. It is labelled a terrorist outfit by Ankara and much of the international community.





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