Turkey’s military confirmed yesterday that its air force had pounded Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq and it vowed to continue the attacks until the guerrilla group was “rendered ineffective.”
A military statement said the jets hit 60 suspected rebel targets on the largely mountainous region near the border with Turkey late on Wednesday as well as targets on Mount Qandil, along the Iraqi-Iranian border, where the leaders of the rebel group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are believed to be hiding.
The strikes were in retaliation for an ambush by the autonomy-seeking rebels on a Turkish military convoy on Wednesday that killed eight soldiers and a village guard who was helping the troops. The military said 15 other soldiers were wounded.
Close to 40 troops have been killed in stepped-up PKK strikes since last month.
Earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had hinted at a major operation against the rebels, saying Turkey had reached the end of its tether. The clashes have also killed about 10 rebels.
Turkish and Kurdish media reported that Turkey’s air force sent jets into northern Iraq on Wednesday. However, officials did not confirm the raids until yesterday.
Many PKK guerrillas shelter in the mountains of Iraq, crossing the border into Turkey for hit-and-run assaults.
The group, which is fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey, is considered a terrorist organization by both the EU and the US.
Turkey has carried out several cross-border airstrikes and ground incursions to fight the PKK in Iraq over the last few years. However, Wednesday’s is the military’s first offensive into northern Iraq since last summer, when Turkish planes carried out a series of similar retaliatory raids on suspected rebel hideouts across the border.
The military said Turkish forces also fired 168 rounds of artillery on suspected PKK targets, targeting rebel sites and avoiding civilian targets. All planes returned to base safely and the operation was a success, it said. There was no word on any casualties.
A Kurdish news agency that is close to the rebels said the jets pounded “empty fields” and there were no PKK casualties.