Turkish planes bomb Kurdish rebels in Iraq

Turkish planes bombed Kurdish PKK positions in northern Iraq for a second night Thursday, the rebels and news agencies said, hours after Ankara vowed new tough measures to counter the outlawed group.

The bombardments on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels came in response to their bloody attack in southeast Turkey on Wednesday which killed nine members of the Turkish security forces, and signaled an upsurge in violence betweeen the historical enemies.

Relatives of major Yavuz Basayar attend his funeral ceremony in Ankara on August 19, 2011. Kurdish rebels killed eight Turkish soldiers, including Basayar, and a village guard on August 17 in an ambush in the southeast of the country. Since the attack Turkish jets bombed 88 targets on bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq

The bombing operations by the Turkish Air Force are the first time in more than a year that Turkey has carried out air strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq.

The latest mission targeted a PKK command-post on Mount Qandil, near the border with Iran, pro-Kurdish Firatnews said.

"The bombing started again around 10 minutes ago," Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) spokesman Dozdar Hammo told AFP at 11:00 pm (2000 GMT). He added that the bombings targetted rebel bases in the Qandil, al-Zab and Khowakirk areas near Iraq's border with Turkey.

Hammo said no casualties had resulted from the raid, or earlier ones on Thursday morning and Wednesday night.

According to Turkey's IHA press agency, 16 F-16 fighter jets took off at 19H00 GMT from bases in Turkey and headed to northern Iraq.

The second bombing raid by Turkey also followed a new rebel attack earlier on Thursday in the southern province of Siirt.

PKK gunmen raided two Turkish military posts by grenade and machine-gun fire, injuring three soldiers and four civilians, local security sources said.

The escalation in violence came as the National Security Council (MGK), which brings together top civilian and military officials, met for five hours before pronouncing support for a tougher stance against the PKK.

The council, led by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, spoke of the need for "better coordination" of the military and police resources in suppressing the Kurdish rebels.

However, in a statement, the body insisted that while the fight would be pursued "with determination" it would not renounce the rule of law and democratic norms.

"No activity which might threaten the indivisible unity of the Turkish nation will be tolerated," the document said, without giving concrete details of the measures that will be introduced.

The national security council's statement also called on Turkey's neighbours "to accept their responsibilities" to eradicate the PKK from their territory, without naming any countries in particular.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who earlier signalled tougher measures against rebels after the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, said after the attack that the government had "run out of patience".

Ankara has been revisiting its strategy against the PKK for some time. New measures being considered by the government include sending special police and professional army units to the combat zones along the border with Iraq.

Information gathered by the police and intelligence agents will be pooled together and the Turkish military will receive a new green-light for cross-border operations under the new strategy, said NTV.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms in the Kurdish-majority southeast in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.

In the first bombing raid, Turkish jets hit scores of targets in northern Iraq used as bases by the PKK following a deadly ambush by the outlawed group in the town of Cukurca in the southeast of Turkey.

The operation was against a total of 60 targets in the Qandil and Hakurk regions late Wednesday, the General Staff said.

Members of the rebel group often return to their bases in northern Iraq in the winter as their camps are high in the snow-covered mountains in the Qandil region.

The Turkish military said its operations both within Turkey and in parts of Iraq used as a safe haven by the PKK "will continue until it is eradicated."

According to Ankara, there are some 2,000 rebels operating from Iraq, from where they can filter back into Turkey to launch attacks.

AFP

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