The Turkish air force launched a series of air strikes Saturday and early Sunday against bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party in northern Iraq. Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul Turkish forces are intensifying their operations against the PKK rebels.
A military statement said 12 Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq were targeted by the Turkish air force early Sunday. It also said all its planes returned safely. The attacks centered on the Qandil mountains near the Iraqi-Iranian border.
It is believed the region is the base for most of the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK. A pro-Kurdish news agency confirmed the raid, saying it lasted two hours.
The same agency said the attack had caused panic among civilians. No figures were given for rebel or civilian casualties. But with strikes occurring in a mountainous sparely populated region, civilian causalities are rare.
Ankara accuses the PKK of using neighboring Northern Iraq as a base to launch strikes against its forces in Turkey.
On Thursday, Turkey carried out air strikes on 13 suspected PKK targets in the Zap region of northern Iraq. Turkish forces in the past few months have launched numerous air strikes against rebel bases in the region.
Earlier this year, Turkish soldiers entered Iraq in a week-long operation. Such operations against the PKK have been enhanced by U.S. intelligence information.
Retired Turkish General Haldun Solmazturk says these attacks are part of a psychological war against the rebels
"It will achieve above all a psychological effect that will carry the message to the PKK that northern Iraq is not a safe haven and it can be reached by anytime by the Turkish state," he said.
Ankara claims to have killed more than 40 rebels in the past few weeks during intense fighting between Turkish forces and the PKK in southeast Turkey close to the Iraqi border. More than a dozen Turkish solders were also reported killed.
Since 1984, the PKK has been fighting for self rule for predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, the majority of whom were civilians. The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department and the European Union.
Earlier this month three German mountaineers were kidnapped by the PKK in eastern Turkey, in protest of a crackdown by Berlin on its activities in Germany. The mountaineers were later released.
The Kurdish rebels are facing increasing pressure in Europe as well as in Turkey and Iraq, but Ankara is also facing international calls to pursue a political solution to the conflict.