Kurd fighters claim to inflict casualties against Turks

Türkiye Materials 26 February 2008 16:28 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) said Tuesday its fighters clashed with Turkish troops in Duhuk province in Iraq' s Kurdish Autonomous Region and seized weapons and bodies of five soldiers.

"PKK fighters attacked Turkish troops stationed in the village of Jimji in Nirwa Wirkan on the border with Turkey," a PKK source was cited by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan on its website.

There were casualties in the heavy fighting that erupted, the source said, without giving a figure.

Another PKK official said fighters launched an attack on Turkish troops overnight in four positions in Alzab.

"Turkish troops suffered 21 casualties, including five soldiers, whose bodies are kept by PKK fighters, PKK spokesman, Ahmed Denees, told the Voices of Iraq news agency.

Fighters has foiled an attempt by Turkish commandos to parachute into the Jimji area and forced them to retreat, Denees said.

Clashes continue in Alzab and Bazya but came to a halt in Irsh with the retreat of Turkish troops.

Earlier, a Turkish news report said Turkish commandos had parachuted into the Qandil region near Iraq's border with Iran and had taken control of roads and passes in the region. Other troops had reached around 25 kilometres inside mountainous northern Iraq.

Separately, an envoy of Turkish president Abdullah Gul will hold talks in Baghdad Wednesday over the military offensive, Iraq's cabinet spokesman, Ali al-Dabagh, said.

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.

Meanwhile Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attempted to calm concerns that the incursion could lead to instability in Iraq by reiterating that the operations' sole target was the PKK.

"I want to make this clear and underline this once again. These operations are not directed at the administration in northern Iraq. They are only directed at the terrorist organization.

"They are aimed at cleansing the (region) of terrorist camps. Our sole target is the terrorist organization," Erdogan told fellow Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentarians and supporters in Ankara on Tuesday.

"Our armed forces are taking every precaution in order that the people of (northern Iraq) are not hurt," Erdogan said, adding that Turkey has always supported the territorial integrity of Iraq and that the PKK was a danger to the stability of Iraq.

He said that Turkey was continuing to trade with Iraq and provide electricity, saying this was an example that Turkey regards Iraq and the Iraqi people as friends.

Erdogan said the military operations were going well and that the soldiers would return home in the "shortest possible time."