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Turkish Officials: Military Targeting Kurdish Rebels Inside Iraq

By VOA News
24 October 2007

Turkish officials say the military has been targeting Kurdish rebel positions inside northern Iraq since a rebel ambush near the border Sunday that killed 12 Turkish soldiers.

The officials say Turkish artillery units shelled suspected rebel bases across the border Tuesday night, while Turkey's official news agency says warplanes bombed rebel positions along the Turkish-Iraqi border Wednesday.

Officials say the shelling is in retaliation for Sunday's ambush in southeastern Turkey, and not part of any large-scale incursion into Iraq.

Turkish military and political leaders held a meeting of the National Security Council in Ankara Wednesday, to discuss possible further measures against rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino warned against the escalation of tensions between Turkey and Iraq. She urged the two sides to exercise restraint, saying both Iraqis and Turks agree the common enemy is the PKK.

A high-level delegation from Iraq is expected to visit Ankara for talks with Turkish officials Thursday. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan says he expects the delegation to come with concrete proposals for ways to defuse tensions along the border.

Babacan met with Iraqi authorities in Baghdad Tuesday. Turkish officials say Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told Babacan Tuesday that Baghdad might agree to hand over Kurdish rebels to Ankara.

Mr. Talabani had previously said Iraq was unable to arrest and hand over members of the PKK to Turkey.

The European Union today urged Ankara to refrain from launching a military incursion into Iraq to counter the rebels.

On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the closure of PKK offices, saying the group is a terrorist organization and will not be allowed to operate inside Iraq.

Turkey has built up its forces along the Iraq border, deploying about 10,000 troops.

The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey since 1984. More than 30,000 people have died in the conflict.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.



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