WASHINGTON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The United States has given Turkey intelligence to track Kurdish fighters hiding in Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday, but he would not say whether Washington gave Ankara precise targets used in weekend raids.
U.S. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman also would not say whether the United States gave Turkey prior approval to use Iraqi air space to conduct the strikes.
"The United States continues to assist with information to the Turkish government that will help them deal with the insurgent situation that they have up there," Whitman said.
The Pentagon had said it was helping Turkey gain the "actionable" intelligence needed for a strike against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. Actionable intelligence refers to information that can be acted upon, such as data that pinpoints the location of a target for a military strike.
Asked specifically whether the United States gave Turkey targets used in weekend raids, Whitman said he would not "get into details like that."
He said the Pentagon was providing information that would be "helpful in dealing with this insurgent terrorist threat."
When told by reporters that his answer implied the Pentagon had indeed provided such "actionable intelligence," Whitman said, "That's probably OK."
Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since it began an armed struggle for a separate Kurdish homeland in 1984. It says some 3,000 PKK fighters are based in camps in northern Iraq.
A three-hour offensive over the weekend, reported to involve some 50 fighter jets, also included ground forces shelling suspected PKK positions in northern Iraq.
Iraq summoned the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad to protest the bombing.
The State Department too would not say whether the United States gave Turkey a green light for the strikes.
"We face a common enemy -- Turkey, the United States and Iraq -- from the PKK. It's a terrorist organization and we certainly want to see actions taken to put it out of business," said State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey.
"We also want to make sure that whatever is done is coordinated to the extent possible between Turkey and Iraq." (Reporting by Kristin Roberts and Paul Eckert, Editing by David Wiessler)
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