Turkey says 90-100 Kurd rebels killed in north Iraq raids

ISTANBUL Tue Aug 23, 2011 5:10am EDT

1 of 2. Residents hold pictures of people killed in shelling by Turkish warplanes during a protest in northern town of Rania in Sulaimaniya province, 260 km (161 miles) northeast of Baghdad August 22, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish military operations in northern Iraq have killed some 90-100 Kurdish guerrillas since last week's launch of artillery and air strikes against the separatist group, the armed forces said on Tuesday.

The air strikes are the first against rebels in the mountains of northern Iraq in more than a year and mark an escalation of the 27-year-old conflict after the collapse of efforts to negotiate a settlement.

In six days of cross-border air raids, Turkish warplanes struck 132 targets of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which uses the region as a base to launch attacks on Turkey.

The armed forces launched the operations on August 17 in response to a surge in PKK attacks in southeast Turkey. Kurdish politicians in northern Iraq have condemned the raids, saying they were contrary to international norms.

An army statement said definite figures on PKK casualties were not available but it had information that more than 80 militants were wounded in the operations, which hit 73 shelters, eight stores and nine anti-aircraft positions.

"According to initial information 90-100 terrorists were rendered ineffective," according to the General Staff, using an expression referring to the killing of militants. "The air and ground operations will continue," the military added.

The casualty figures could not be confirmed.

A news agency close to the rebels has said three PKK fighters were killed in the raids, while a local mayor and witnesses in northern Iraq have said seven Iraqis were killed in a Turkish air strike in the region on Sunday.

PKK rebels have killed some 40 Turkish security personnel in just over a month. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in 1984.

The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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