Tue, Jun 05, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Turks shell rebels in northern Iraq again, says Kurdish report

AGENCIES , ANKARA

Turkish troops shelled a border area in northern Iraq for a second day early yesterday in an attack on Kurdish rebels based there, a pro-Kurdish news agency reported. The report could not be confirmed immediately.

The leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, confirmed shelling by Turkish troops in Kurdish areas on Sunday but said there was no Turkish incursion.

Yesterday, the Belgium-based Firat news agency, citing local Iraqi Kurdish sources, said Turkish artillery again targeted an area close to the border town of Zakho. On Sunday, the agency said the troops shelled the Hakurk area, further east.

Turkish authorities, who have called the Firat agency a mouthpiece of Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK, were not immediately available to comment.

Kurdish guerrillas have long had camps in the Hakurk area, 15km from the Turkish border.

Turkish troops have occasionally launched brief raids in pursuit of guerrillas in northern Iraq, and have sometimes shelled suspected rebel positions across the border. Turkish authorities rarely acknowledge such military operations, which were more frequent before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Turkey's foreign minister told an EU meeting that Ankara has every right to take measures against Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq.

"I have told them that we have every right to take measures against terrorist activities directed at us from northern Iraq," Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told a news conference.

Turkey will deliver a report to the UN this week spelling out its concerns about Kurdish separatists in Iraq and reaffirming its legal right to take action against them, an official said yesterday.

The news comes as Turkey reinforces its troops along the border with Iraq and the army General Staff stresses its readiness for a cross-border operation to crush separatist rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK.

"Diplomacy first," said yesterday's Sabah newspaper headline, saying the UN move prepared the legal and diplomatic ground for a possible military operation, which has already sparked alarm in the US, Turkey's NATO ally.

The Foreign Ministry official said Turkey's permanent UN representative, Baki Ilkin, would hold talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week.

"The terrorism incidents will be explained. A report will be presented concerning the explosives and weapons we have determined are coming [into Turkey] from northern Iraq," the official said.

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