Ankara: Turkey sent hundreds of elite troops
into northern Iraq on Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas in an
operation that could increase tensions with the semiautonomous
The soldiers killed four rebels escaping after a failed
attack on a Turkish unit near the border, the Turkish military
It did not report any of its own casualties. The
soldiers, supported by Turkish warplanes, were remaining in
northern Iraq, the military said. It did not say when the
troops would withdraw.
The military has repeatedly staged air and ground
assaults against Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq. The
last major incursion was in February 2008, when thousands of
ground forces staged a weeklong offensive into Iraq.
Iraqi Kurds have been cooperating with Turkey in its
fight against the rebels, sharing intelligence on the
guerrillas movements and positions. However, the incursion
could trigger protests from Baghdad and the semiautonomous
Iraqi Kurdish region, especially if it is a prolonged one.
The military said on its website that three commando
companies and one special forces battalion penetrated 3
kilometers into Iraq.
Turkish warplanes also pounded Kurdish rebel positions
and mortar and anti-aircraft units deeper inside Iraqi
territory today, the military said.
The offensive was ordered after the rebels attempted an
unsuccessful attack on troops near the Turkish border town of
Uludere, the military said.
"The air operation was monitored from the command
headquarters and it was noted that the targets were
successfully hit," the military said.
The Turkish military estimates around 4,000 rebels of the
Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, are based just across the
border in Iraq and that about 2,500 operate inside Turkey.
Last month, Turkey killed at least 19 Kurdish rebels in
an airstrike on rebel hideouts in northern Iraq.
The PKK has freely operated in northern Iraq, a
semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdish entity since the Gulf War,
benefiting from a power vacuum for decades.
The last ground offensive in 2008 yielded mixed results,
with many guerrillas making a comeback to bases along the
border after the Turkish units withdrew. The incursion also
worried the region`s Iraqi Kurds who feared that a prolonged
Turkish military presence could destabilize the relatively
safer Iraqi territory.