Report: Turkish jets strike PKK bases in Iraq

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Associated Press

Posted on October 8, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 8 at 11:34 AM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish jets have struck suspected Kurdish rebel targets in two separate cross-border raids in northern Iraq, a Turkish news agency reported Monday, prompting Iraq to vow to take "diplomatic" steps against Ankara for violating its sovereignty.

Turkey has frequently struck targets of the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq. But with relations between Turkey and Iraq deteriorating, Baghdad recently warned Turkey against military operations on its territory.

Ties between Ankara and Baghdad have reached a low over a Turkish decision to shelter Iraq's Sunni vice president, even after a Baghdad court sentenced him to death for running death squads. Turkey also started importing crude oil from northern Iraq under a deal with the Iraqi Kurdish administration that has angered Baghdad.

In August, Iraq accused Turkey of interfering in its internal affairs after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu paid a surprise visit the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, seen as a testing ground for whether Iraq's sectarian leaders can reach reconciliation.

Turkey's private Dogan news agency said the warplanes on Sunday targeted four rebel bases and anti-aircraft batteries along the border with Turkey and on Mount Qandil, on the Iraqi-Iranian border. The agency, quoting unidentified military sources, said more than 12 F-16 fighter jets took part in the operations. It did not report any casualties.

There was no official confirmation of the raids, which were also reported by Firat news, a website close to the rebels. The Turkish Defense Ministry and military officials would not comment.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Monday the Turkish airstrikes were a violation of Iraq's sovereignty.

"Turkey should respect the principles of good neighborhood," he said in Moscow. "These Turkish attacks on Iraqi territories are not acceptable and we will take the necessary diplomatic measures."

Kurdish rebels fighting for self-rule in Turkey's southeast use northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since 1984.

Dabbagh said: "We do understand the reasons behind such acts, yet we do not tolerate such breaches."

In Iraq, Ahmet Deniz, a spokesman for the rebel group, said the Turkish warplanes had struck bases on Qandil that had long been abandoned as well as some villages in the area. He said the bases were deserted after previous strikes and that there were no casualties.

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Associated Press writers Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed.

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