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Turkey Hits Kurdish Areas in Iraq      04/25 06:15

   ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkish warplanes carried out airstrikes on Tuesday 
against suspected Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq and in northeastern 
Syria, the military said, in a bid to prevent militants from smuggling fighters 
and weapons into Turkey.

   The attack killed at least 18 Syrian Kurdish troops, according to a 
monitoring group, as well as five members of the Iraqi Kurdish militia known as 
the peshmerga and drew swift condemnation from Baghdad.

   Syrian Kurdish forces said the strikes hit a media center, a local radio 
station, a communication headquarters and some military posts, killing an 
undetermined number of fighters in Syria's northeastern Hassakeh province. The 
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian 
war, also reported the strikes on the media and military targets in Karachok.

   According to the Observatory, the airstrikes killed 18 members of the Syrian 
Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG. The Observatory 
had earlier said only three were killed. Kurdish officials were not immediately 
available for comment.

   Ankara says members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, are 
finding sanctuaries in neighboring Iraq and Syria, among those countries' own 
Kurdish minorities.

   A Turkish military statement said the pre-dawn strikes hit targets on the 
Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and also in a mountainous region in Syria. It 
said the operations were conducted to prevent infiltration of Kurdish rebels, 
weapons, ammunition and explosives from those areas into Turkey.

   A Turkish security official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with 
Turkish government protocol, said the airstrikes are believed to have killed 
around 200 Kurdish militants, including some senior commanders. The claim could 
not be independently confirmed.

   Iraq's Foreign Ministry denounced the strikes as a "violation against Iraq's 
sovereignty" and called on the international community to put an end to such 
"interferences" by Turkey.

   "Any operation that is carried out by Turkish government without any 
coordination with the Iraqi government is totally rejected," Foreign Ministry's 
spokesman, Ahmad Jamal, told The Associated Press.

   He warned against a Turkish military operation in northern Iraq, saying it 
won't "bring a solution, but will instead complicate the issue and destabilize 
northern Iraq."

   Although Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in 
northern Iraq, this was the first time it has struck the Sinjar region. Turkey 
has long claimed that the area was becoming a hotbed for PKK rebels.

   Sinjar Mayor Mahma Khalil said the strikes started at around 2:30 a.m. and 
killed five members of Iraqi Kurdish forces known as peshmerga, and wounded 
nine. Khalil said he was not aware if there were casualties among PKK troops.

   Last year, Turkey sent troops into Syria to back Syrian opposition fighters 
in the battle against the Islamic State group and also to curb what is 
perceives as the territorial expansion of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, 
which it claims are affiliated with the PKK. The Kurdish group, which has led 
an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984, is considered a terror 
organization by Turkey and its allies.

   In its statement, the military vowed to press ahead with operations against 
the PKK both inside Turkey and across its borders until the "last terrorist is 
eliminated."

   The Syrian Kurdish forces denounced Tuesday's strikes on their positions as 
"treacherous," accusing Turkey of undermining the anti-terrorism fight.

   Aside from aspirations for autonomy, the Kurdish group in Syria is part of 
the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State militants who 
seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq in 2014. Since then, the IS has suffered 
major setbacks at the hands of the coalition, losing large chunks of the 
territory the Sunni militant group once held. The Syrian Kurdish forces, backed 
by the U.S.-led coalition, are closing in on IS de facto capital, the city of 
Raqqa.

   "By this attack, Turkey is trying to undermine Raqqa operation, give (IS) 
time to reorganize and put in danger lives of thousands of" displaced, the YPG 
said on its Twitter account.


(KA)

 
 
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