Turkish forces attack Kurds

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The Independent Online

Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish rebel targets as far as 60 miles inside northern Iraq for three hours early yesterday morning, in the largest aerial attack against the outlawed separatist group in recent years. An Iraqi official said the planes attacked several villages, killing one woman.

In the nighttime offensive, fighter jets hit rebel positions close to the border with Turkey and in the Qandil mountains, which straddles the Iraq-Iran border and is about 60 miles from the frontier between Iraq and Turkey, the military said. It said the operation was directed against the rebels and not against the local population.

As many as 50 fighter jets were involved in the airstrikes, private NTV television and other media reported. Turkey has recently attacked the area with ground-based artillery and helicopters and there have been some unconfirmed reports of airstrikes by warplanes.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested Turkey could stage more attacks on Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, hide-outs in northern Iraq.

"This operation, which was carried out under night conditions, was a success," Erdogan said Sunday. "Our struggle (against the PKK) will continue inside and outside Turkey with the same determination."

Turkey has massed tens of thousands of troops along its border with Iraq in response to a series of attacks by the rebels. In October, parliament voted in favor of authorizing the government to order a cross-border operation against the group, which seeks autonomy for the Kurdish minority in southeastern Turkey.

The United States and Iraq have, however, called on Turkey to avoid a major operation, fearing such an offensive could disrupt one of the most tranquil regions in Iraq.