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Tensions Grow in Northern Iraq Over Turkish Military Buildup


Iraqi Kurds living near the Turkish border continue to report regular shelling in remote areas in recent days. Turkish generals have threatened strikes inside Iraq to eliminate support networks for Kurdish separatist fighters who operate in Turkey. But U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned Turkey against military action. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from northern Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdish media have reported near-nightly artillery attacks in the past few days in the rural northwest of the country, near the Turkish border.

Abdullah Salah, an Iraqi parliament member from Kurdistan, told Iraqi television that several villages near the border city of Zakho have been targeted.

He says the locations shelled by the Turkish are north of Zakho. He says they are very close to the Turkish border.

A local Kurdish political leader in Zakho says the shelling has been regular, but the violence has not escalated.

He says frankly, along the border Turkey has been massing their troops and waiting.

Turkey says Iraq's central government, Kurdistan's regional government, and the U.S. military have not done enough to crack down on Kurdish rebel bases inside Iraq. In the past week, 12 Turkish troops were killed in attacks blamed on militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK. More than 30,000 people have died in the conflict since the PKK began its separatist campaign in 1984.

Thousands of Turkish troops have moved toward the Iraqi border and set-up special security zones that restrict movement in Turkey's border areas.

In Iraqi Kurdish villages near Turkey, there is worry of a Turkish invasion similar to 1997, the last time large numbers of Turkish forces crossed the border to fight the PKK. Turkey says the PKK uses mountain hideouts and friendly villages in northern Iraq to train and re-supply.

This woman in Dashati Takhe village, near the border city Zakho says the shelling has forced many people to leave their homes and seek shelter in the city.

She says she asks the Iraqi government to stop this. She says it is hard for the families here and we need to live in peace.

On Saturday, Iraqi officials in Baghdad summoned a Turkish diplomat and lodged an official complaint, claiming the military had shelled areas of Dohuk and Irbil province and warning cross-border attacks could destabilize the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday also warned Turkey, saying a "robust" movement of troops across the border would not be good for Iraq or Turkey.

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