Turkish air force joins Kurd attacks

Turkish planes and helicopter gunships bombed Kurdish rebels along the border with Iraq today.

Turkish planes and helicopter gunships bombed Kurdish rebels along the border with Iraq today.

The attacks came as the government admitted Turkish helicopter gunships had crossed into Iraqi on Sunday and that troops have shelled suspected Kurdish rebel positions across the border.

US-made Cobra attack helicopters chased Kurdish rebels some three miles into Iraq on Sunday but returned to their bases in Turkey following the rebel ambush that killed 12 soldiers near the border.

As the military stepped up its operations today its leaders discussed the scope and duration of a possible cross-border offensive.

They face growing demands at home to stage the offensive into northern Iraq, where the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – the PKK – rest, train and get supplies in relative safety before returning to Turkey to conduct attacks.

Turkey, which has moved troops to the Iraq border, warned Iraq and Western allies yesterday that a Turkish incursion was imminent unless Baghdad takes action, and said there would be no cease-fire with the separatist fighters.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, returning from Baghdad, said: “We said that we are expecting them to come with concrete proposals and otherwise the visit will have no meaning.”

Turkey’s Foreign Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen said today that the country could impose economic sanctions against northern Iraq as part of its strategy.

Turkey provides electricity to northern Iraq, and most of the food sold in markets in northern Iraq come from Turkey.

The US issued its most direct demand yet for anti-rebel measures from Iraqi Kurds who hold effective rule over territory where Turkish Kurd guerrillas have camps.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the closure of all offices belonging to the PKK in Iraq and said they would not be allowed to operate in Iraqi territory.

“We need more than words,” Mr Babacan said. “We said that preventing the PKK from using the Iraqi soil, an end to logistical support and all PKK activities inside Iraq and closing of its camps are needed. We also said its leaders need to be arrested and extradited to Turkey.”

Adding to the tensions is the alleged capture of eight Turkish soldiers who have been missing since Sunday’s ambush.

Several newspapers printed pictures showing eight missing soldiers who are allegedly hostages in the hands of separatist rebels.

Turkey seems willing to hold back until at least early next month, when it is due to host foreign ministers for a meeting about Iraq.

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