The Turkish military on Tuesday claimed to have inflicted massive losses on Kurdish rebels in bombing raids in northern Iraq as Iraqi Kurdish officials reported a fresh Turkish air strike.
"It is understood that between 150 and 175 terrorists ... were rendered ineffective" in a strike on Dec. 16, the general staff said on its Web site.
"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.
It said many rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were wounded in the operation.
Turkish warplanes launched another raid in northern Iraq on Tuesday, an official from the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga security force said.
He said Turkish planes bombed three villages as they targeted rebel bases in the Iraqi Kurdish province of Dohuk.
The strike lasted around 10 minutes shortly after midday, and hit the villages of Rikan, Shezee and Samjuhu in the border region of al-Amadiyah.
"The villages were deserted," the official said on condition of anonymity.
The army said in a second statement that five PKK rebels were killed early on Tuesday in an operation, backed by helicopters, in a mountainous region in the southeastern Turkish province of Sirnak, close to the Iraqi border.
But it made no mention of any cross-border action and said troops had returned to their bases.
If confirmed, Tuesday's bombing would be the fourth Turkish air strike in northern Iraq since October, when parliament authorized cross-border military action against the PKK armed separatist group.
Since 1984, the PKK's armed rebellion against Turkey for Kurdish self-rule has claimed more than 37,000 lives. The group is classed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.
Turkey has moved around 100,000 soldiers up to the border with Iraq in preparation for a threatened ground invasion, accusing the US and the Iraqi government of failing to control the rebels.
Ankara says an estimated 3,500 PKK fighters use the mountainous Kurdish-run territory in northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks inside Turkey.
The PKK has denied it has suffered any serious losses in the Turkish raids, saying only five of its militants and two civilians were killed in the Dec. 16 strikes, the first after Turkish parliament gave the go-ahead.
Iraqi Kurdish leaders said that raid caused many civilian casualties, claims dismissed as "baseless" by the Turkish military which insists it targeted "facilities used only by terrorists."
The general staff said 16 command, training and logistical bases as well as 182 hideouts, 10 anti-aircraft defense positions and 14 ammunition depots were destroyed.
It also distributed black-and-white images of rebel targets taken before and after the Dec. 16 raid, which it said showed destroyed buildings in PKK camps.
That attack was followed by a small-scale ground operation in which Turkish troops penetrated "several kilometers" into northern Iraq from the southeast province of Hakkari.
A second air raid on Dec. 22 targeted "hideouts and anti-aircraft positions belonging to the PKK," the army said.
Since then, officials in northern Iraq have reported two other Turkish air raids, including the one on Tuesday. The Turkish army has not confirmed the last two raids reported by Iraqi Kurds.
The raids have been coordinated with the US military in Iraq, and US President George W. Bush spoke to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday.
Ankara has accused Iraqi Kurds of tolerating and supporting the PKK.
But Iraq officials have called the air raids an attack on Iraqi sovereignty.
"We are not denying that Turkey has a right to defend itself from extremists but some of its actions are not serving any democratic purpose in Turkey or in Iraq," Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Monday.
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