Abdullah Ibrahim, a senior local official in the administrative centre of Sankasar, acknowledged that there were PKK bases in the area, about 170km from the Turkish border, but said they were far from the villages that were hit.
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“The villagers are now scared and are hiding in nearby caves. They lost all their properties,” Ibrahim said.
Turkey’s armed forces have conducted several cross-border military operations in recent weeks.
The Turkish military statement said: “Warplanes of the Turkish airforce conducted a comprehensive air campaign against targets belonging to the terrorist PKK-Kongra Gel organisation in the Qandil mountains from 0100 this morning (2300 GMT).”
“The operations solely target the … terrorist movement. They are not conducted against people living in northern Iraq or local groups not engaged in enemy activity.”
Turkish ground forces have also been shelling the area where fighters belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are believed to be operating, the statement said.
Ankara has massed up to 100,000 troops near the mountainous border with northern Iraq, backed by tanks, artillery and military aircraft.
Turkey claims the right of self-defence under international law to stage cross-border attacks into northern Iraq against an estimated 3,000 PKK fighters hiding there.
The military statement said such operations would continue “according to military needs”.
Analysts say a major Turkish incursion does not appear imminent, arguing that many Kurdish fighters have moved into neighbouring Iran and that weather conditions in northern Iraq are rapidly worsening, making a large-scale military strike difficult.
Washington fears such an attack would create chaos in Iraq’s most stable region and possibly further afield.
Ankara blames the PKK, which seeks a separate Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey, for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since it began its armed struggle in 1984.
The United States and the European Union, like Turkey, classifies the PKK as a “terrorist organisation”.
Source: News Agencies