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Turkish Forces Enter Northern Iraq to Hunt Kurdish Rebels

  • VOA News

FILE - Demonstrators hold flags picturing imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, during a protest against latest security operations in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Sept. 6, 2015.

FILE - Demonstrators hold flags picturing imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, during a protest against latest security operations in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Sept. 6, 2015.

Turkish ground forces entered northern Iraq Tuesday for the first time since 2011, conducting what an official termed a "short-term" operation to hunt Kurdish rebels behind attacks on Turkish soldiers and police.

Without giving specifics, a Turkish government official said the troops crossed during a "hot pursuit" action against the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The Turkish air force carried out strikes early Tuesday on suspected PKK bases in Iraq. The state-run Anadolu news agency said more than 50 Turkish aircraft were involved in the six hours of raids, killing up to 40 rebels.

The Turkish operations follow a roadside bomb attack that killed 16 Turkish soldiers Sunday in the Hakkari region – the deadliest PKK attack since July, when violence by both sides wrecked a two-year cease-fire.

Another roadside bombing Tuesday killed at least 14 Turkish policemen in the eastern province of Igdir.

Relentless campaign

On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu promised not to let up in the battle against the Kurdish rebels, who've been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Richard Moore, the UK’s ambassador to Turkey, has called for an end to what he called "meaningless violence." He extended his sympathy to the families of soldiers and police officers killed in recent clashes with the PKK.

European Council President Donald Tusk will pay an official visit to Turkey as part of a regional tour which also covers Israel, Palestine and Cyprus, with a focus on the Syrian refugee crisis.

Offensive launched in July

Turkey launched what it called a new anti-terror offensive in late July with airstrikes targeting PKK targets in both southeastern Turkey and in northern Iraq.

More than 200 people have been killed in the renewed fighting between the PKK and government security forces, including at least 100 soldiers and police officers.

The campaign drew cautions from the United States and European Union, which said that while Turkey had the right to defend itself, it should show restraint and pursue a "proportionate" response.

Security forces are now engaged in operations across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. Curfews and military security zones – effectively no-go areas – are in force in much of the region, prompting growing human rights concerns.

The PKK has been fighting Turkey since 1984 in a conflict that has left 40,000 people dead. Turkey, the U.S. and EU have labeled it a terrorist group.

Dorian Jones contributed to this article from Istanbul. VOA Turkish Service contributed to this report. Some information is from Reuters, AP and AFP.

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