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Turkey Launches Air, Artillery Attacks on Northern Iraq


Turkish jets have launched airstrikes against Kurdish rebels bases in northern Iraq. According to Iraqi authorities one civilian was killed and several others were injured. Kurdish rebels say Turkish air and artillery strikes deep inside northern Iraq have killed five rebel fighters.Turkey accuses the rebels of using Iraq as a base to launch attacks against it. The head of Turkey's military says the United States gave approval for Turkey to stage a military strike. Iraqi Foreign Ministry called in Turkey's ambassador in Baghdad to receive a protest against the strikes. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

According to the Turkish military, its air force launched comprehensive air strikes against bases of the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK, in northern Iraq. A number of remote villages are believed to have been hit.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said the strikes were solely aimed at the PKK. Ankara accuses the PKK of using Northern Iraq as a base to launch attacks in Turkey.

Speaking at a rally of his supporters, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the attacks were part of the government's determined approach against the rebels. He said the struggle for the unity, peace and salvation of his country will continue in full determination both inside and outside the country.

The attacks, which according to Turkish media reports involved large numbers of jets, occurred early Sunday and were followed by barrages of heavy artillery.

Following PKK attacks earlier this year that claimed scores of Turkish casualties, Turkey massed about 100,000 solders close to the Iraqi frontier. The Turkish parliament has also sanctioned a cross-border operation.

The Kurdish separatists have been fighting for greater autonomy for more than 20 years in a conflict that has claimed more than 30,000 lives. Turkey has warned that further attacks against the PKK can be expected.

Retired general Haldun Solmazturk, who fought the PKK for eight years, says such strikes are part of a psychological war against the rebels.

"A small-scale operation focusing mainly on PKK elements, based on sound intelligence now we understand that is being provided by the Americans, would achieve above a psychological effect that would carry the message to the PKK, that Northern Iraq is not a safe haven and it can be reached anytime by the Turkish state," he said.

According to observers these latest strikes are part of a carrot-and-stick approach towards the PKK. Earlier this week Prime Minister Erdogan announced he is considering changing the law to make it easier to allow more rebels to surrender, and receive an amnesty.

In the past few weeks Turkish forces have also been distributing leaflets in areas where the PKK is believe to operate calling on the rebels to surrender. This strategy is expected to result in further strikes into Iraq, in a bid to keep up the pressure on the rebels.

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