Turkey 'hit all targets in Iraq'

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The Independent Online

Turkey said yesterday its warplanes hit their Kurdish guerrilla targets in weekend raids on northern Iraq that raised fears of destabilisation in one of Iraq's few peaceful regions.

The EU urged Turkey to show restraint after the raids, which officials in northern Iraq said hit villages, killed one woman and forced hundreds to flee.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about reports of civilian casualties, and urged Baghdad and Ankara to work together to tackle Kurdish guerrillas using northern Iraq as a base for attacks in Turkey.

Dismissing reports the raids hit villages, Turkey's General Staff said its targets were fixed "after it was established that they were definitely not civilian residential areas."

The three-hour offensive, reported to involve 50 fighter jets, also included ground forces shelling suspected positions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

"According to initial valuations, all the planned targets were hit accurately," the General Staff said on its Web site.

The Turkish army has massed up to 100,000 troops near the border, raising fears that a major cross-border operation could further destabilise Iraq and fuel ethnic and sectarian tensions.

However, initial responses to the weekend raids from Turkey's main allies stopped well short of condemnation.

The United States, Turkey's main military ally, has said it was informed of the raids in advance but did not authorise them.

A Pentagon spokesman also said Washington had given Turkey intelligence to track Kurdish fighters hiding in Iraq, but would not say whether it gave precise targets used in the raids.

The EU, which Turkey is hoping to join, voiced concern.

It called on Turkey "to exercise restraint, to respect the territorial integrity of Iraq and refrain from taking any military action that could undermine regional peace and stability."

UN Secretary-General Ban "is concerned that Turkey has launched air strikes into northern Iraq yesterday and that there have been reports of possible civilian casualties," spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.

"At the same time the Secretary-General is concerned at the continued intrusion of PKK elements carrying out terrorist attacks in Turkey from northern Iraq," she added.