Turkey kills 57 Kurds in Iraq

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The Independent Online
Ankara - Turkey has sent its troops into northern Iraq against Kurdish guerrillas in the largest cross-border operation since a six-week drive in March, and said 57 rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had been killed.

The Foreign Ministry said the operation, which began two days ago, was "limited to a few points" inside Iraq where a large group of rebels had gathered to launch an attack into Turkey. This follows a six-week incursion into Iraq earlier this year by up to 35,000 Turkish troops which military and political leaders said had dealt ablow to the PKK presence there.

Turkish officials gave no indication yesterday of the size of the force taking part in the new operation. There was also no word of any Turkish losses.

Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) guerrilla group, nominally in control of the area, said two Turkish brigades pushed 10 miles into Iraq on Wednesday. A Turkish brigade normally has about 3,000 men.

The KDP accused Turkey of "indiscriminately" shelling seven villages and injuring three civilians. Two other civilians were abducted by Turkish troops, it said. But the military gave assurances it had taken precautions to protect civilians. "Planes are not in any way being used closer than 2km to settlements," it said. Some of Turkey's Western allies, fearful for the safety of Iraqi Kurdish civilians, criticised the March operation and Germany, one of Turkey's main arms suppliers, briefly suspended military sales.

Northern Iraq has been under the control of lightly armed Iraqi Kurdish guerrillas, protected from Baghdad by a Western air force, since shortly after the 1991 Gulf war. Turkey said the March push had seriously disrupted the PKK's logistical capabilities in northern Iraq, from where the guerrillas often launch cross-border attacks into Turkey. More than 17,000 people have died in the PKK's 11-year insurgency.