Turkish troops continue Iraq offensive

Türkiye Materials 26 February 2008 12:05 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Turkish troops operating in northern Iraq cut off routes to the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) main camp in the Qandil mountains, stopping PKK fighters from other regions from reaching the main camp, Turkish newspapers reported Tuesday.

Commandos had parachuted into the Qandil region near Iraq's border with Iran and had taken control of roads and passes in the region, Hurriyet newspaper reported. Other troops had reached around 25 kilometres inside mountainous northern Iraq.

Some 41 PKK fighters were killed in fighting on Sunday night and Monday, according to a statement released by the Turkish General Staff Monday afternoon, bringing the total number of PKK dead since the operation began on Thursday night to 153. Two Turkish soldiers were killed on Monday, the statement said, bringing the Turkish death toll to 17.

The Dogan news agency reported that three state-employed village guards were also killed in clashes with PKK militants.

Turkey launched "Operation Gunes" on Thursday night, sending as many as 10,000 troops into Iraq with the aim of destroying the PKK's ability to use northern Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks on Turkey. The Turkish military estimates there are between 4,000 to 5,000 PKK guerrillas based in the region.

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