World News

Over 150 PKK killed in Turkish December 16 Iraq strikes

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s military said on Tuesday that between 150 and 175 Kurdish guerrillas were killed in a large-scale air offensive on December 16 that targeted rebel camps in northern Iraq, the first in a series of cross-border attacks.

Turkey launched the offensive, involving some 50 war planes, against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) bases after receiving intelligence and clearance from the United States.

NATO-member Turkey says it has the right to use force to combat the PKK, which uses the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq as a launchpad to mount attacks in which they have killed dozens of Turkish troops in recent months.

The General Staff said in a statement more than 200 targets were hit on December 16, including three command centers, two communications centers, two training camps, nine logistical areas, 182 living quarters, and 14 arsenals.

“All targets that were taken under fire were hit with full success in the air operation, in which most developed target detection and strike control systems were used.”

The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union, has denied any of its members were killed in the strikes.

The General Staff said many wounded PKK members were brought to hospitals in northern Iraqi cities after the air strikes. It added that the 150-175 figure of killed guerrillas did not include those killed when their camps, many in caves, collapsed.

The military provided black and white video and still images of laser guided missiles hitting targets as well as destroyed buildings, but offered no images of casualties or close-ups of the camps destroyed.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since the group began its armed rebellion for a separate homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

Turkey says some 3,000 PKK members are based in the mountains of northern Iraq.

Turkey’s government authorize the military to launch cross-border operations following what it said were insufficient steps by Iraqi authorities to crack down on the PKK.

Writing by Paul de Bendern; editing by Sami Aboudi