Turkey attacked PKK rebel targets in northern Iraq Dec. 1, saying it inflicted “heavy losses.” The Turkish General Staff said it ordered artillery and air-strikes against a group of “50 to 60 terrorists…inside Iraq’s borders” southeast of the Turkish town of Cukurca, Hakkari province. “If necessary, other army units will intervene in the region,” the statement added. While there have been mounting reports of Turkish strikes on Iraqi territory in recent weeks, this is the first time Turkish authorities have admitted to such an attack.
The statement said the military operations “are not against people living in northern Iraq nor against local groups unless they commit an act of enmity against the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).”
A senior PKK leader denied the strikes had occurred, telling AFP by telephone from a rebel base: “There are no clashes with the Turkish army. Our area is quiet.”
Contacted in the Iraqi city of Arbil, Fuad Hussein, chief of staff for Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdish region, did not categorically confirm the strikes but said “it could be artillery shelling.” Jabbar Yawar, the head of peshmerga (Kurdish militia) forces in northern Iraq, said without elaborating that Turkish aircraft had been “trespassing northern Iraqi airspace for a week.”
The US military in Baghdad said it had no reports of Turkish military operations in northern Iraq. “We have nothing. We have no reports like that at all,” spokesman Maj. Winfield Danielson told AFP. Asked if the US military would know if Turkish troops had crossed the border, he replied: “I can’t answer that. I don’t know if we would.”
Turkish forces also struck targets within Turkish territory near the border with combat helicopters.
The apparent operation comes two days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his cabinet had authorized a cross-border operation against PKK. Erdogan said after meeting with the Chief Judge of the Constitutional Court Hasim Kilic that the TSK was authorized for cross-border operation against the PKK as of Nov. 28.
On Oct. 17, the Turkish parliament approved a resolution giving the government the legal basis to order cross-border military operations into Iraq if and when it deemed them necessary. Turkey has amassed up to 100,000 troops near the mountainous border, backed up by tanks, artillery and warplanes. (AFP, Xinhua, AlJazeera, Dec. 1)