Tue, Oct 14, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Turkish air raids target PKK rebel leaders in Iraq

AFP , ANKARA

Turkish warplanes bombed on Sunday a Kurdish rebel hideout in Iraq where senior militants were believed to be, the army said.

It was the seventh Turkish air strike in northern Iraq since Oct. 3 when Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants crossing from their bases in the region attacked a Turkish border outpost, killing 17 soldiers.

The jets on Sunday evening struck a hideout in the mountainous Zap region, a major rebel stronghold, where “a PKK group which included high-level members” was determined to be, the army said in a statement.

It did not specify any casualties from the raid.

The Turkish parliament on Wednesday extended by one year the government’s mandate to order cross-border military operations in northern Iraq against the PKK, which has long enjoyed safe haven in the region.

Just as the lawmakers voted, a police bus was machine-gunned in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the predominately Kurdish southeast, claiming five lives.

The PKK claimed responsibility on Sunday for the attack, saying in a statement on its website that it was a “successful action” by its militants.

The police have detained nine people in connection with the incident, among them three alleged PKK militants believed to have taken part in the attack.

On Saturday, officials said a probable suicide attack was foiled after the police arrested an alleged Kurdish militant carrying explosives in downtown Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city.

The suspect — a woman in her 30s who was faking pregnancy — carried 8.8kg of explosives and detonators.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in the southeast in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 44,000 lives.

Turkish officials estimate about 2,000 PKK rebels are holed up in the mountains of northern Iraq, where they allegedly enjoy free movement and obtain weapons and explosives for attacks in Turkey.

Ankara has often accused Iraqi Kurds, who run the autonomous region, of tolerating and even aiding the rebels, but Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Saturday that the government would pursue dialogue with Iraqi Kurds to resolve the problem.

The Turkish army has carried out a series of air strikes and a week-long ground incursion against PKK camps in northern Iraq since the government obtained its first one-year mandate for cross-border raids on Oct. 17 last year.

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