Turkish troops "advancing on PKK headquarters"

Türkiye Materials 25 February 2008 17:32 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Turkish troops were Monday advancing on the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) headquarters located in the Qandil Mountains near the Iraqi border with Iran, Turkish media reported.

PKK camps in the regions of Zap and Cemco Valley had been destroyed over the weekend and now commandos backed by F-16 warplanes were targeting the PKK's Qandil base, Hurriyet newspaper reported.

Turkish government spokesman Cemil Cicek on Monday defended the operation, saying that under international law Turkey had the right to self-defence and to stop the PKK from using Iraq as a base from which to attack civilian and military targets in Turkey.

"We told the world (of PKK activities in northern Iraq)... and we wanted measures to be taken. Unfortunately, because Turkey's calls over a long period of time were not answered," Cicek told reporters referring to Turkey's repeated requests that US forces in Iraq or Iraqi forces themselves stop the PKK in northern Iraq.

"We have said from the beginning that our one and only target is the PKK separatist terrorist organization," Cicek said adding that the Iraqi people were Turkey's friends.

Cicek said that Turkish troops would return home as soon as they have succeeded in destroying the PKK's ability to cross into Turkey to carry out attacks. He refused to speculate when exactly that may be.

The death toll since Turkey launched its incursion into Iraq on Thursday night stood at 127, according to a statement released Sunday by the Turkish General Staff. The statement said 112 PKK fighters and 15 Turkish soldiers had been killed. The PKK have refused to accept the figures.

"The clashes are continuing in three different regions. Our units' operations in difficult terrain and weather conditions will continue with the same bravery and determination until they reach their planned targets," the Turkish military statement said.

The Dogan news agency on Monday reported that three village guards from the Turkish town of Cukurca who were employed by the state to assist Turkish soldiers were killed late Sunday night in fighting inside Iraq.

Turkey blames the separatist group for the deaths of more than 32,000 since the early 1980s when the PKK began its fight for independence or autonomy for the mainly Kurdish-populated south-east of Turkey.

The Turkish military estimates that between 4,000 and 5,000 PKK fighters are based in northern Iraq from where they launch attacks on Turkey.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.