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Turkish warplanes bomb Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq: army

by Staff Writers
Ankara (AFP) May 11, 2008
Turkish warplanes have bombed Kurdish rebels in neighbouring northern Iraq, killing an unknown number of militants in the latest in a series of air strikes in the region, the Turkish army said Sunday.

The "intensive" bombing in the Avasin-Basyan region on Saturday targeted a group of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants who retreated there after taking part in a deadly attack on a Turkish military outpost Friday night, the general staff said in a statement.

The raid, which started at 1500 GMT backed by artillery fire, killed a yet unknown number of militants and destroyed several facilities, including the PKK's media and propaganda centre, a second statement said.

The military vowed "to fight terrorism with an increasing determination" and give "an immediate and multifold response" to any PKK attack.

At least 19 rebels and six soldiers were killed in clashes and a bombing raid in southeastern Turkey late Friday and early Saturday after the PKK attacked a military outpost near the Iraqi border in Hakkari province.

The army said Saturday the PKK's attack was a move to offset what it described as panic and demoralisation in the group after the "serious blow" it suffered in an extensive Turkish air raid on its positions in northern Iraq on May 1-2.

The strike, which targeted the Qandil mountains, a major PKK stronghold along the Iraqi-Iranian border, resulted in the killing of more than 150 PKK militants, according to the army.

Many of the some 200 militants believed to remain based in Qandil had laid down their arms and fled deeper into northern Iraq, dispersing in settlements in the region, which is run by the Iraqi Kurds, it said.

Senior PKK commander Cemil Bayik fled into a neighbouring country together with a large group of militants, engaging in clashes with local security forces, the army said.

It did not name the country, but it appears to be Iran, which is fighting its own Kurdish separatist group PJAK, a PKK associate that also takes refuge in the Qandil mountains.

Many of Bayik's bodyguards were killed but his fate remains unknown, the statement said.

The information about Bayik's group was passed to Turkey by Iran as part of a deal involving intelligence-sharing that the two countries reached in April, the Radikal newspaper reported Sunday.

A senior PKK member, however, denied Saturday that rebel units in northern Iraq were disintegrating and that Bayik had fled.

Listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984. The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives.

Turkey has stepped up military action against the group since December, carrying out several air strikes and a week-long ground incursion into northern Iraq in February, where it says more than 2,000 PKK rebels take refuge.

The United States, which like Turkey lists the PKK as a terrorist group, has backed its NATO ally by providing intelligence on rebel movements in Iraq.

Turkey has also revived dialogue with the Kurdish administration of northern Iraq, whom it has long accused of tolerating and even aiding the PKK, in a bid to enlist their cooperation against the rebels.

The Turkish government has a one-year parliamentary authorisation for cross-border military action against the PKK, which expires in October.

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Two foreign soldiers, dozen rebels killed in Afghanistan
Kabul (AFP) May 9, 2008
Two foreign soldiers were killed in action in Afghanistan on Friday, military forces said, while more than a dozen Taliban-linked rebels were killed in a separate battle involving air strikes.

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