Turkey’s military said air strikes on suspected Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq this week have killed some 100 guerrillas and warned that it would begin further offensives against the group from both inside Turkey and across the border.
The military said that 80% of separatist rebels were injured in six days of cross-border air raids which commenced on Aug. 17th, hours after eight soldiers and a government-paid village guard were killed in an ambush by PKK the Kurdistan Workers’ Party near the border with Iraq.
The Turkish military released the following statement:
“According to initial information obtained, between 90 and 100 terrorists were rendered ineffective, more than 80 wounded terrorists were moved to hospitals or villages, and contact with a high number of terrorists was cutâ€¦Rendered ineffectiveâ€¦Iraq’s north and domestic areas will be monitored for separatist terrorist activity and air and ground operations will continueâ€¦”
The military said 79 shelters and hideouts were hit, one ammunition depot, 18 caves, eight depots, 14 PKK buildings or facilities, nine anti-aircraft gun positions and three rebel road blocks.
The PKK rebels however have denied any losses, insisting that areas hit by Turkish warplanes were in fact deserted bases.
“By giving these false numbers, the Turkish army commanders are trying to raise the spirits of their soldiers and to create more pretexts to continue their war against civilians…The government condemns and denounces all attacks and violations of the sovereignty of Iraq by neighboring countriesâ€¦ We do not believe that this is the best way of solving this issueâ€¦ Both the stances of the Kurdistan and Baghdad governments is weak and far from firm. (Prime Minister Nouri) al-Maliki’s government is too weak to stand against Turkeyâ€¦ Targets hits were determined following detailed analyses that were verified several times and were included on the list of targets only after it was established with certainty that they were not areas inhabited by civiliansâ€¦”
Considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union the PKK is fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the conflict since 1984.
The rebels have long used northern Iraq as a base for hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets. Some 40 soldiers were killed in escalated PKK assaults since July.
Turkey has been carrying out a number of cross-border air raids and ground incursions over the years but has failed to stop rebel infiltration throughout the mountainous border.