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Turkish warplanes bomb Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq

By Ivan Watson, Mohammed Tawfeeq, and Yesim Comert, CNN
Turkish soldiers carry Thursday the coffins of soldiers who were killed in an attack by members of the Kurdistan Workers Party.
Turkish soldiers carry Thursday the coffins of soldiers who were killed in an attack by members of the Kurdistan Workers Party.
  • Turkish military said it pounded more than 100 targets in northern Iraq
  • Tensions have been escalating between the Turkish government and the Kurdish minority
  • Two soldiers were killed in clashes in Siirt province, official says

Istanbul (CNN) -- Turkish warplanes carried out a second night of airstrikes against suspected Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq, as deadly clashes erupted within Turkey between security forces and guerrilla fighters.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq expressed concern Friday about the Turkish cross border raids.

In an interview with CNN, Kawa Mahmoud called on Turkey to resolve its long-simmering conflict with Kurdish separatist through diplomacy, not violence.

"We always emphasize that shelling (the) Iraqi border is inconsistent with international conventions and good neighborly relations, and we consider it as intervention and disregard for the sovereignty of the Kurdish and Iraqi territory," Mahmoud said, adding "the bombings directly affect the infrastructure of the region of (Iraqi) Kurdistan."

In a news release Friday, the Turkish military said warplanes and artillery pounded more than 100 targets in rugged mountains of northern Iraq where fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have long been active.

The Turkish armed forces periodically target what Ankara calls PKK "safe havens" and "attack bases" in northern Iraq.

For more than a decade, these remote border regions have been beyond the authority of the Iraqi central government as well as of the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration that governs the northern part of the country.

In the meantime, Turkish officials told CNN two more Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes in a remote region of south-eastern Siirt province Thursday night.

An official from the Siirt governor's office, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said suspected rebel fighters carried out two night-time attacks on local gendarme stations and government buildings using "rocket launchers and long-range weapons."

The official said two Turkish soldiers were killed and four wounded in the fighting. He said three rebels including a female fighter were also killed in the clashes.

Dozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed over the last month, in a clear escalation of the conflict that has raged intermittently between Kurdish separatists and the Turkish state since 1984.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict, many of them ethnic Kurds.

The Kurds are Turkey's largest ethnic minority.

For decades, Ankara imposed oppressive policies, which banned Kurdish names and language and sometimes referred to the community as "mountain Turks."

The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has attempted to improve relations with Turkey's Kurds in recent years by launching a Kurdish channel on state television and acknowledging "mistakes were made" in the way Ankara treated the minorities.

But tensions have escalated between Erdogan's government and the main Kurdish nationalist political party in recent months.

After winning a larger number of seats in June parliamentary elections, the main Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) boycotted the swearing-in ceremony for new lawmakers.

Kurdish lawmakers are protesting a decision by Turkey's electoral board, which disqualified a prominent Kurdish candidate from participating in the June election.

Politician Hatip Dicle was barred from running due to a 20-month prison sentence he received for "making propaganda for a terrorist organization," a Turkish reference to the PKK.

Meanwhile, riots involving Kurdish youths have periodically erupted in recent months in Istanbul and other Turkish cities.