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Turkish Army Reports Strikes Against Kurdish Rebels in Iraq


The Turkish military says its warplanes have struck nearly 60 positions of the Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK, in northern Iraq. The strikes are the latest in an ongoing Turkish campaign against the PKK, which Ankara claims is using bases in northern Iraq to launch attacks against Turkey. Dorian Jones reports for the VOA from Istanbul.

The Turkish military says the attacks occurred on Tuesday and centered on three regions in Northern Iraq.

The military claims it destroyed two anti-aircraft positions, and four ammunition depots as well as command and training centers of the Kurdish Workers Party or PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state for Kurdish autonomy since 1984.

These latest attacks are part of a systematic campaign to destroy the PKK's infrastructure in northern Iraq. Since the start of the campaign in December, the Turkish military says it has killed at least one hundred and 50 PKK members in 200 air strikes. Ankara says the PKK has around three thousand fighters based in the Iraqi Kurdish enclave of northern Iraq.

Retired Turkish General Haldun Solmazturk, who fought the PKK for eight years, says the aim of the campaign is to break the rebels' will to fight.

"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 all 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.

The Turkish military said on Friday that 10 PKK rebels had turned themselves in to authorities in southeastern Turkey, bringing to 21 the number of militants that have surrendered in the past month.

According to analysts, the key to the Turkish military's air campaign is U.S. intelligence. Since a meeting last November between President Bush and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Washington has been providing Ankara with crucial electronic intelligence on the PKK's presence in northern Iraq.

The cooperation between Washington and Ankara intensified following Turkish threats to enter northern Iraq to remove PKK bases.

Baghdad has strongly condemned the Turkish air strikes.

Despite such criticism, Ankara remains undeterred. Following this month's deadly bombing of a bus carrying Turkish soldiers in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Prime Minister Erdogan promised the campaign against the PKK would continue.

Further strikes against PKK bases in Iraq are expected in the coming weeks as Turkish forces seek to inflict heavy damage before the winter snows melt and the PKK begins its expected spring offensive.