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Turkey Claims Success Against Kurdish Rebels


Turkey says recent military strikes against Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq have succeeded in killing hundreds of militants and destroying facilities and hideouts used by the rebels. VOA's Michael Bowman has details from Washington.

On December 16, Turkey carried out its largest military operation in years against rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, launching a massive air assault followed by a ground incursion into Iraqi territory. Last Saturday, Turkey conducted further air strikes, targeting the Kurdish militants. Turkey, The European Union, and the United States regard the PKK as a terrorist organization.

On Tuesday, Turkish military authorities released their assessment of the campaign, saying between 150 and 175 Kurdish rebels were killed in the initial air assault. That figure does not include militants killed in caves and other hideouts. Turkey says scores of rebels were wounded and taken to hospitals in northern Iraq.

A statement from Turkey's military says warplanes and artillery struck more than 200 individual targets, including rebel command posts, training camps, weapons storage facilities, and hideouts. Turkey has released photographs and video footage of the military operation showing destroyed buildings and other structures.

Active for more than 20 years, the PKK has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey. Operating from northern Iraq, the group has mounted attacks inside Turkey, which, along with Iraq, is home to a large Kurdish population. Tens of thousands of people are believed to have died in the decades-old conflict.

Iraq has condemned Turkey's military offensive as a violation of its sovereignty. The Bush administration neither criticized nor endorsed the Turkish strikes, but has said it is sharing intelligence with Turkey on the PKK.

Two months ago, Turkey's parliament authorized military operations in Iraq to combat Kurdish rebels. Turkey says the U.S. military cleared airspace over northern Iraq to facilitate the strikes.

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