Turkey moves into Iraq near PKK camp

Turkish tanks and armored vehicles crossed into northern Iraq headed in the direction of a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) camp, Turkish security sources said on Monday.

The incursion came as cross-border operations continued in the wake of last week’s attack by PKK terrorists that killed 24 Turkish soldiers.

The armored column, with hundreds of troops, was moving towards a PKK camp at Haftanin, around 20 km (12 miles) from the Habur border post and near the Iraqi city of Zakho, the sources said.

Several hundred PKK terrorists were believed to be based at Haftanin, the sources said. Warplanes took off earlier from bases in Diyarbakır and Malatya to launch airstrikes on the camp as the latest phase of operations began on Monday afternoon.

The remoteness of the camp’s location and the difficult terrain made it difficult to assess how close the Turkish force had moved toward Haftanin.

Residents of the village of Dashtatakh in Dahuk province, about 10 km east of Haftanin, reported that 200 Turkish soliders entered Iraqi territory on Monday afternoon but left about an hour later. Tanks could be seen in the distance but did not enter, according to one.

“I saw this afternoon around 200 Turkish soldiers entering a site near our village. They were on foot and equipped with light weapons,” said Dashtatakh resident Said Hanna Younan.

“It seems that they were looking for PKK fighters, and they didn’t find what they were looking for. They left after one hour,” he said, adding that the tanks had stayed on the Turkish side of the river.

Separately, the head of Turkey’s armed forces, General Necdet Özel, offered a review of recent military operations for NTV news channel.

“The cross border operation that started on October 20 continues in a number of regions, within the framework of a determined stuggle against terrorism,” Özel said in written answers to questions from NTV and posted on its website.

Turkish air strikes have killed 250 to 270 PKK terrorists, wounded 210 and destroyed many arms stores in northern Iraq since Aug. 17, Özel said in the text.

Turkish warplanes launched air strikes against PKK members in northern Iraq in mid-August in retaliation for a string of PKK attacks in southeast Turkey.

The military launched fresh air-backed ground operations against the terrorists last week on both sides of the mountainous Turkey-Iraq border after simultaneous PKK attacks killed 24 Turkish soldiers in Hakkari province on the Iraqi border.

On Saturday, the military said it had killed 49 terrorists during two days of fighting in a valley on the Turkish side of the frontier.

Ankara’s reaction to one of the deadliest attacks on its security forces in a conflict that began three decades ago had fuelled speculation that Turkey could move to a full-blown incursion to clear out PKK camps deeper inside northern Iraq.

More than 40,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 1984. The United States, the European Union and Turkey designate the PKK as a terrorist organisation.






24 October 2011, Monday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH REUTERS,