Turkish warplanes strike Kurdish militants in northern Iraq

ANKARA Sun Jun 24, 2012 9:00am EDT

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ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey said on Sunday it had carried out air strikes on nine Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq between June 22-24, days after severe clashes on the other side of the border.

The Turkish military said in a statement that most of the targets were in the Qandil region and were hideouts and caves belonging to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. It said all its planes had returned safely to their bases.

Turkish soldiers and Kurdish militants clashed last week in one the most intense battles this year of the separatist conflict, with 26 combatants killed in fighting at army outposts in southeast Turkey, officials and security sources said.

Up to 100 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched simultaneous dawn attacks on three military observation points in Hakkari province near Turkey's mountainous border with Iraq, killing eight soldiers and wounding 19, the sources said.

Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdish region, criticized Turkey's air strikes, saying that a peaceful solution was the only answer.

"It is unfortunate that we are seeing this kind of deterioration and we are against the operations that are carried out inside Turkey or the air raids that are carried out by Turkey in areas in Iraqi Kurdistan," Barzani told a news conference in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil on Sunday.

The oil-producing autonomous region of Kurdistan is a potential flashpoint for tensions among ethnic Kurds, Turkmen and Iraqi Arabs.

(Reporting by Jonathon Burch in Ankara and Anna Ringstrom in Erbil, Iraq, Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Alison Williams)

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