Fighting on Turkey-Iraq border

Three Kurdish guerrillas and two Turkish soldiers have been killed during a fierce gun battle in Turkey's troubled southeast.

    Turkish tanks gathered near Iraq's border

    Seven Turkish soldiers were also injured in the firefight on Friday, a military official said on customary condition of anonymity.

    The battle, which began late on Thursday, was still raging between the Turkish army and scores of Kurdish guerillas in the mountain terrain of Turkey's Batman province, some 80km from the border with Iraq.

    US ally

    Ankara is hunting hundreds of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas it says are returning from northern Iraq to Turkey after the US-led war toppled Saddam Hussein this year.

    The United States has pledged to work with Turkey to eradicate the threat posed by the PKK in northern Iraq.

    Turkey has stationed thousands of troops just inside the border with Iraq in a controversial deployment it says is necessary to halt PKK attacks on Turkish targets.

    Partial amnesty

    Turkey has stationed thousands of troops just inside the border with Iraq.

    Turkey has also enacted a US-backed partial amnesty this month, aimed mainly at PKK fighters who launched an armed campaign for a Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984 in which more than 30,000 people have died.

    Several hundred PKK members, the vast majority of whom are in prison, have applied for the partial amnesty, which offers freedom for PKK members who have not taken part in military operations or reduced jail terms for those who have.

    The PKK says the amnesty does not go far enough and has threatened to call off a unilateral ceasefire, in place since the 1999 capture of rebel leader Abd Allah Ocalan, unless Turkey halts attacks against its units.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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