Turkish Warplanes Again Cross Border To Bomb in N. Iraq

By Ellen Knickmeyer and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, December 27, 2007

CAIRO, Dec. 26 -- Turkish warplanes on Wednesday bombed suspected Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq for at least the third time in the past 10 days, while the Bush administration urged Turkey to act with restraint in its intensified cross-border offensive against the guerrillas.

Turkey has expressed gratitude for U.S. intelligence assistance, which it characterized as invaluable in the attacks. However, some Iraqi leaders, particularly Iraqi Kurds, are angry at what they see as U.S. acquiescence to Turkey's violations of Iraqi territory.

Turkey's attacks on Turkish Kurd guerrillas operating out of northern Iraq have placed the United States in the middle of a dangerous struggle between two regional U.S. allies.

In Wednesday's attack, Turkish warplanes bombed eight caves or other suspected winter hideouts of Kurdish guerrillas in the Zap Valley, in Kurdish northern Iraq, the Turkish military general staff said in a statement on its Web site.

The Turkish statement called the bombing a "pinpoint operation." It gave no word of casualties.

Kurdish officials in northern Iraq said Turkish warplanes bombed near the border for about an hour Wednesday morning. The Kurdish officials said there were no injuries or deaths because the area was largely deserted.

A Kurdish regional security official in Iraq called on the U.S. and Iraqi governments to intervene to stop Turkey's attacks.

"Protecting the Iraqi borders is the government responsibility, and the American forces should protect the borders and airspace as well," said Jabbar Yawar, a spokesman for the pesh merga, the militia of the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq. "The Turkish attacks are a brazen aggression. The Iraqi government did nothing to protect the Iraqi lands, even though it's their responsibility, and the Kurdish lands are part of Iraq."

Turkey has escalated air and ground attacks in northern Iraq since Dec. 16, when it sent warplanes across the border for hours of nighttime bombing.

Turkey is targeting bases in Iraq of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish initials PKK. The armed group has been fighting for a separate homeland for Kurds in Turkey since 1984.

Turkey claims it has "neutralized" at least 150 rebels in the 10 days and hit a number of PKK bases. Turkey has confirmed three separate days of airstrikes and one cross-border ground incursion; Iraqi Kurds claim Turkey has bombed across the border five times in the past 10 days.

The attacks follow a commitment by President Bush in November to increase U.S. intelligence-sharing and military cooperation with Turkey to help it fight the rebels. Turkish leaders and generals said U.S. intelligence helped Turkey identify targets for the Dec. 16 bombing runs.

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