Turkey Bombs Villages In N. Iraq

By Amit R. Paley and Dlovan Brwari
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

BAGHDAD, Feb. 4 -- Turkish warplanes bombed more than 70 targets in northern Iraq on Monday as part of the government's ongoing battle with a militant Kurdish group that uses the area as a base for attacks in Turkey.

Villagers said they were unable to flee the bombing, which took place at about 3 a.m., because heavy snow had closed many roads.

The severe weather also made it impossible for local officials to determine whether the strikes caused casualties, said Brig. Gen. Omar Sharif of the Iraqi border forces.

The Turkish military said it struck targets in 11 areas believed to be hideouts of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by the initials PKK. The group, which seeks greater autonomy for Kurds in Turkey, is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and the United States.

"Turkish jet fighters bombed only the terrorist targets and great concern was displayed during operations not to affect civilian life in any way," Turkey's state-run Anatolian news agency quoted the military as saying in a statement.

Sharif said bombs hit the villages of Khou Kurki, Khunereh, Sheneeneh and Lolan in the Sidikan area of Irbil province. He said the bombing lasted at least three hours.

Also Monday, new details emerged about a U.S. airstrike Saturday that the U.S. military said killed nine civilians south of Baghdad, one of the deadliest such attacks on civilians in months.

Capt. Muthana Ahmad, a spokesman for the police in Babil province, said U.S.-backed Sunni fighters were battling the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq when they requested U.S. air support.

Ahmad said U.S. helicopters accidentally targeted a checkpoint manned by the U.S.-backed fighters, killing three of them and wounding five. He said two houses were destroyed, killing the families inside, though it was unclear how many were wounded or whether there were armed men hiding inside.

"We offer our condolences to the families of those who were killed in this incident, and we mourn the loss of innocent civilian life," Maj. Brad Leighton wrote in an e-mail.

In northern Iraq near Kirkuk, armed men in the town of al-Touz assassinated a Turkmen leader, Mahmoud Ali Nafotji, police said. The attack, and a defused roadside bomb that targeted his funeral march, sparked outrage from members of the minority Turkmen group, who have expressed concern that Kurds are trying to take control of Kirkuk.

"We are killed because we Turkmen oppose the Kurdish project and we demand our rights," said Ali Hashim Aghool.

Brwari reported from Mosul. Special correspondent Naseer Nouri in Baghdad contributed to this report..

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