Sherko Raouf / Reuters
Sulaimaniya: Turkish warplanes targeting Kurdish rebels bombed villages deep in northern Iraq on Sunday, killing a woman and forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, local officials said.
In Ankara, the Turkish military’s General Staff confirmed in a statement its warplanes had attacked targets of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which uses northern Iraq as a base from which to attack security forces inside Turkey.
But the head of the General Staff, General Yasar Buyukanit, quoted by Turkey’s Anatolian state news agency, denied any civilian targets were hit and said his forces had acted with the implicit approval of US occupying forces in Iraq.
“In opening Iraqi airspace to this action last night America gave its approval to the action,” he said, adding that the PKK fighters could no longer hide from Turkish forces.
A US embassy official, asked to comment on Buyukanit’s remarks, said: “We have not approved any decision, it is not for us to approve. However, we were informed before the event (the air strikes).”
Turkish ground forces also shelled areas where the rebels were based, the army statement said. Turkey’s NTV television said 50 aircraft had taken part in the three-hour operation.
Pro-separatist Roj TV, quoting PKK sources, said five PKK guerrillas were killed in the overnight bombardment.
The death of the woman was the first reported civilian fatality since Turkey stepped up shelling and air strikes on suspected PKK bases in the Qandil mountains in October.
The mayor of Sankasar town, north of the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya, Abdullah Ibrahim, said 200 families had fled their homes in villages in the Sankasar and Jarawa administrative areas and at least 10 houses had been destroyed.
Commenting on the air strikes, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan praised the armed forces’ action and said his government was determined to use every kind of instrument in the fight against terrorism — diplomatic, political and military.
“We will continue to wage this battle for our nation’s unity and peace, both inside and outside Turkey,” he said.