Nearly 200 killed in Kurdish air strikes

Turkish military says up to 175 PKK rebels were killed on December 16, launches fresh attacks inside Iraq.
Nearly 200 killed in Kurdish air strikes
By Dylan Bowman and AFP
Tue 25 Dec 2007 07:22 PM

Between 150 and 175 Kurdish rebels were killed in a Turkish air strike in northern Iraq on December 16, the Turkish military said on Tuesday as warplanes again pounded targets inside Iraq.

"It is understood that between 150 and 175 terrorists... were rendered ineffective," the general staff said in a statement on its website.

"The figure does not include the terrorists who were rendered ineffective as a result of hideouts or caves collapsing in the air raid," it said.

The attacks on December 16 were on the Qandil mountains near the border with Iran where Ankara says some 3,500 Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels are holed up, using the area as a springboard for attacks on Turkey.

The statement added that many rebels were also wounded in the operation and taken to hospitals in Arbil, Raniyah, Kaladiza and Choman in the north of Iraq.

The PKK said at the time that five of its militants and two civilians were killed.

The strike, which was backed by artillery, destroyed all of its targets including 16 command, training and logistical bases as well as 182 hideouts, 10 anti-aircraft defence positions and 14 ammunition depots, the army said.

Ankara has denied that civilians were hit in the air raids, blaming reports of villages being bombed and hospitals and schools destroyed on PKK sympathisers among Iraqi officials seeking to mislead the international community.

The US administration has said that it had been informed of the attacks in advance. Turkey said the US approved of the air raids by providing "intelligence" and opening Iraqi airspace.

The Christmas Day raids were in the Iraqi Kurdish province of Dahuk near the border with Turkey, but early reports indicate no one was killed.

The bombings follow a similar offensive on Saturday in the Amadiyah area of northern Iraq.

The December 16 raids were followed by a small-scale ground operation last week in which Turkish troops penetrated "several kilometers" into northern Iraq from the southeast Turkish province of Hakkari.

About 500 Turkish troops taking part in a ground operation, the first time Turkey has sent ground troops across the border.

Turkey, which has the second largest army in the Nato military alliance after the US with 515,000 troops, has moved around 100,000 soldiers up to its 380-kilometre border with Iraq.

Ankara has said the Iraqi government and its US backers are not doing enough to halt PKK attacks. Iraq has promised to rein in the PKK.

The US fears that Turkey could launch a major cross-border operation and destabilise the relatively peaceful northern part of Iraq.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and many other countries, has waged a bloody campaign for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey since 1984. The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives.

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