ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Seven Iraqis were killed in a Turkish air strike in Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdish zone on Sunday, a local mayor and witnesses said, the first civilian casualties reported during Ankara’s bombing campaign against Kurdish rebels.
Kurdish politicians condemned the raids, which Ankara launched on Wednesday against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels after increased attacks in southeastern Turkey, saying cross-border strikes were contrary to international norms.
Turkey has not confirmed Sunday’s strike, which would be the first daylight attack.
Hassan Abdulla, mayor of the town of Qalat Dizah, located northeast of the city of Sulaimaniya, told Reuters the air strike hit a car carrying civilians.
“Today there was a rocket from a Turkish plane that hit a civilian vehicle, a pickup, carrying seven civilians. The seven were killed,” Abdulla said.
“The rocket has badly damaged the car ... We could not recognize the bodies, their ages, their identities or even their sex.”
An eyewitness at a mosque near Qalat Dizah said the bodies had been brought there for final religious rites before being buried. The witness said the bodies included two children, two women and three men.
A Reuters witness said he saw six Turkish warplanes take off from a base in southeastern Turkey on Sunday morning but it was not immediately clear where the planes were headed.
The Turkish air strikes are the first against rebels in the mountains of northern Iraq in more than a year and mark a sudden escalation of the 27-year-old conflict after the collapse of efforts to negotiate a settlement.
“Turkish forces act of shelling the border areas is contrary to all international norms and humanitarian concepts,” Fouad Masoum, head of the Kurdistan bloc in parliament, told Reuters.
“Turkey is not able to target armed groups that attack their troops but takes out its anger on innocent people.”
PKK rebels have killed some 40 Turkish security personnel in just over a month. Turkey’s military said after the initial raids that the operation would continue until the PKK became ineffective.
While Turkey has tended to carry out more night raids in the past, day raids are not unheard of.
The Turkish General Staff has issued statements on its website confirming three consecutive nights of air strikes on northern Iraq starting on Wednesday night.
The last statement appeared on Saturday morning. There did not appear to have been any air strikes on Saturday night.
The strikes have been condemned by northern Iraq’s regional government and Baghdad although they have drawn little global attention, which remains focused on unrest in Libya and Syria.
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.
Additional reporting by Muhanad Mohammed in Baghdad, Seyhmus Cakan in Diyarbakir and Jonathan Burch in Ankara; Writing by Serena Chaudhry