Turkish warplanes have bombed Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq, the military said, just days after rebels killed 15 soldiers in an attack staged partly from Iraqi soil.
The planes on Saturday bombed rebel hideouts in Iraq’s Avasin Basyan region and returned safely to their bases, the military said.
The military’s deputy chief, meanwhile, accused leaders in northern Iraq of tolerating the rebels.
“We don’t receive any kind of support from the local administration in the northern part of Iraq,” Turkish General Hasan Igsiz said on Sunday. “Our expectation from them is to accept that the terrorist organization is a terrorist organization and eliminate the support provided to it.”
Turkey is urging Iraqi Kurdish leaders to arrest the rebels and cut their supply lines, after rebels on Friday fired mortars and artillery from Iraqi soil onto a military outpost in a Turkish valley in Aktutun. The attack touched off the deadliest battle between Turkish troops and Kurdish rebels in eight months. Fifteen soldiers and at least 23 insurgents were killed, while another 20 soldiers were wounded and two were still missing, the military said.
“They did not die in vain, they did their duties and they succeeded,” Igsiz said.
The Turkish general also said northern Iraqi leaders should block the rebels from using local roads and hospitals.
The Turkish military says it needs Iraqi help to halt the rebel infiltration from bases across the long and mountainous border. It says its surveillance capabilities in Iraq are limited and that the rugged terrain made it difficult to defend positions.
Iraq’s national government has pledged to cooperate with Turkey.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani — who is a Kurd — told Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul in a phone call Saturday that he condemned Friday’s attack. He said the “ugliness” of the attack was increased by the fact that it was staged during the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Turkey’s civilian leaders have vowed to respond firmly to the rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy in the southeast since 1984.
But on the streets of Turkey, anger has mounted with each funeral held for the slain soldiers.
Public anger has turned toward Turkish leaders as well. On Sunday, mourners booed Gul at a funeral in the western city of Eskisehir and they booed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a funeral in Armutlu village.
“If there is a government, it should show itself,” said 68-year-old Molla Atagur in Armutlu, calling for tougher action against the rebels.
The surge in violence followed relative calm since February, when Turkey staged a weeklong ground offensive against guerrillas based in northern Iraq.
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