Turkey shells Kurdish villages

Turkey fired about 15 artillery shells toward Kurdish villages in the border area of northern Iraq today but caused no casualties, an Iraqi army officer said.

Turkey fired about 15 artillery shells toward Kurdish villages in the border area of northern Iraq today but caused no casualties, an Iraqi army officer said.

He was speaking after separatist Kurdish rebels operating in the area reportedly killed 12 Turkish soldiers.

The shelling, which started at about 7am, was concentrated in the Mateen mountain range of Amadiyah area, about 20 miles from the border, said Colonel Hussein Rashid of the border guard forces.

He said the villages had been deserted due to tensions on the borders and no casualties were reported.

The Turkish army had no immediate comment on the latest reported shelling but has said its troops have “responded heavily” to past armed attacks from northern Iraq and would continue to do so.

Abdul-Rahman al-Chadarchi, a spokesman for the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, denied reports that any rebels were killed or wounded, saying the shelling had struck abandoned areas and left only charred trees.

Earlier today, Kurdish rebels ambushed a military unit near Turkey’s border with Iraq, killing at least 12 soldiers and increasing pressure on the Turkish government to stage attacks against guerrilla camps in Iraq.

The soldiers died when rebels blew up a bridge as a 12-vehicle military convoy was crossing it, CNN-Turk television said.

The attack came four days after Turkey’s Parliament passed a motion authorising an offensive into neighbouring northern Iraq to stamp out the PKK rebels hiding there.

Turkish leaders have said the motion did not mean that Turkey would immediately order a cross-border offensive, but the latest attack was probably a response to increased calls by a frustrated public for an incursion.

Previous offensives by Turkey in Iraq have blunted rebel strength, but failed to eradicate the group.

Rebels periodically cross the border to stage attacks in their war for autonomy for Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish south east.

More than 30,000 people have died in the conflict that began in 1984.

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