Turkey bombs Iraq —again!

Turkish military authorities announced Dec. 26 that fighter jets again hit bases of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, in a third confirmed cross-border air raid in the past 10 days. Ankara called the raids an “effective pinpoint operation” targeting eight caves and other hideouts being used by the PKK in the Zap Valley near the Turkish border.

In Iraq, Jabar Yawar, deputy minister of the Kurdish Regional Government’s peshmerga militia, said the areas hit were deserted, and there were no civilian casualties.

Inside Turkey, six PKK fighters were killed in clashes with security forces in the Küpeli Mountains, located in Şırnak province, bordering Iraq, the General Staff also said. The latest deaths bring the PKK’s death toll to 11 since the operation began on the previous day.

The attack follows two air strikes on Dec. 16 and Dec. 22 against PKK targets in northern Iraq. The military also has confirmed that it sent ground troops to hunt down PKK fighters on Dec. 18. Iraqi Kurdish officials said the ground operation involved some 300 soldiers and lasted 15 hours before the soldiers returned to Turkey.

Iraqi Kurdish officials also maintain there were two more attacks on Dec. 23 and Dec. 25, but these have been confirmed by the military. The Turkish General Staff said more than 200 PKK targets were hit in the Dec. 16 strikes, with between 150 and 175 “terrorists” killed—contradicting the claims of Iraqi Kurdish authorities, who say there were few casualties, and overwhelmingly civilian.

Ankara also disputes the claims of local Kurdish authorities that some 380 families have been displaced by the air raids. “It is clear that such baseless claims encouraging terror, the common enemy of humanity, can only harm those who fabricate them,” a Turkish army statement read. (Zaman, Turkey; NYT, Dec. 26)

See our last posts on Iraq and the struggle for Kurdistan.

  1. Turkey using Israeli drones in Iraq raids?
    From Haartez, Dec. 27:

    Personnel from Israel’s Aerospace Industries are assisting the Turkish army in activating Israeli-made unmanned aircrafts for use in military operations in Kurdish northern Iraq, Turkish sources were quoted as saying in a report to be published Thursday in the Turkish Daily News.

    Ten days ago, Turkish television reported that Turkey had begun using the Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), which Israel leased to the Turkish army in a 2004 deal.

    The Turkish News Daily quoted a Turkish army source saying that because of a shipment delay on the part of Israeli companies, the Turkish Air Force has been prevented from acquiring crucial intelligence abilities.

    Turkey has accused the Israeli companies of not following through with their end of the deal regarding the sale of the UAVs. According to the report, the Israeli companies have decided to supply Turkey with the UAVs as a temporary solution under a $10 million lease.

    In 2004, the Israeli Aerpspace Industries and Elbit Systems won a tender to supply Turkey with the Heron UAVs, a tactical drone that is already in operational use in the Israel Defense Forces, beating out competition from the United States and France.

    According to the deal, the Aerospace Industries was to supply the UAVs, while Elbit was to provide the ground stations and communications systems for the drone.

    The first shipment was initially set for October 2007, but has been postponed until the spring of 2008.

    A source in the Aersopace Industries said in response to the report that the delay is not the fault of the Industries, and vowed that it would fulfill all obligations to which it signed.