Skip to main content

Turkish military claims PKK losses

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Turkish military said its forces were "a few kilometers" inside Turkey
  • Iraq's government condemns raids
  • Turkish President Gul: Armed forces were acting with "international cooperation"
  • Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government president boycotts meeting with Rice
  • Next Article in World »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkey's military on Tuesday claimed to have inflicted heavy casualties on Kurdish rebels in weekend airstrikes on northern Iraq but denied Iraqi reports that its troops had mounted a cross-border raid earlier in the day.

Its forces were "a few kilometers" inside Turkey, the military said.

The statement countered that of a spokesman for Iraq's Kurdistan regional government, who said that a Turkish force of about 300 entered Iraqi territory in pursuit of fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. The Turks advanced about two to three kilometers (1 to 2 miles) into Iraqi territory before withdrawing, the spokesman, Jamal Abdullah, told CNN.

Turkey did acknowledge airstrikes and rocket attacks over the weekend, saying that those launched on Sunday inflicted "heavy losses on their infrastructure and personnel" without causing civilian casualties.

"It is not possible to explain the PKK losses in numbers," a military statement said, adding that an evaluation of the operation was ongoing. "Many PKK hiding positions were hit during the operation."

The PKK has spent two decades fighting for autonomy for Kurds in southeastern Turkey, with some of its attacks staged from locations in northern Iraq. The United States and European Union consider the group a terrorist organization.

Iraq's U.S.-backed government condemned the raids, saying they "add insult to injury."

The president of Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, boycotted a scheduled meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Baghdad to protest U.S. support for the Turkish attacks, according to his chief of staff.

Barzani "did not want to attend while Turkish airplanes were bombing northern Iraq with U.S. support," said Fouad Hussein. Video Watch what's known about the incursions »

The United States has been sharing intelligence with Turkey on the PKK, which U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe called "the common enemy of the United States, Turkey and Iraq."

And Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Tuesday that his country's armed forces are acting with "international cooperation."

"It is a very crucial operation, and the whole world has seen that we do not have any ill intentions," he said during an appearance in the southern Turkish city of Konya.

Officials in Washington, Baghdad and Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish territories have been trying to talk Ankara out of an all-out offensive by the PKK. But Gul said Turkey "would like to help Iraq to get out of the terrorism troubles, because they are unable to do it."

On Sunday Turkish commanders unleashed warplanes and long-range missiles on what they said were PKK positions in the Qandil Mountains. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that shelling continued into Monday, driving more than 1,800 people from their homes, as winter weather envelops the mountainous region.

Iraqi officials have issued a protest to Turkey over the attacks, citing the death of a woman and the wounding of four civilians, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said. And Rice, who was making an unannounced visit to Iraq, cautioned Ankara to avoid inflicting civilian casualties or destabilizing the region.

The U.N. refugee agency expressed concern over those displaced by the bombardment, citing witness accounts that 10 villages had been affected in Sulaimaniya and Irbil provinces, and that bridges, a local school and livestock were destroyed.


The Turkish military said the airstrikes were "planned very sensitively and executed carefully," attributing reports of civilian casualties to "panic."

"These stories are not factual. If villages had been attacked, hundreds of residents would have lost their lives," the statement said. "The goal of such accusations are geared towards serving the PKK terror organization." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh and Talia Kayali contributed to this report

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print