Turkey Bombards Northern Iraq, Iraq Says

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi government said Turkish artillery and warplanes bombarded areas of northern Iraq on Wednesday and called on Turkey to stop military operations and resolve the conflict diplomatically.

The claim occurred amid rising tension and Turkish threats to strike bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK, which has been launching attacks against targets in Turkey from sanctuaries in Iraq.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told The Associated Press that the morning bombardment struck areas of the northern province of Dahuk, some 260 miles northwest of Baghdad.

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Col. Hussein Kamal said about 250 shells were fired into Iraq from Turkey. He added that there were no casualties on the Iraqi side of the border.

“We have received reports that the Turkish government and the Turkish army have bombed border villages. The Iraqi government regrets the Turkish military operations of artillery and warplanes bombing against border cities and towns,” al-Dabbagh said.

“The Iraqi government calls for ceasing these operations and resorting to dialogue,” he said, insisting that Iraq wants “good relations with Turkey.”

Earlier Wednesday, Kurdish guerrillas staged a bomb attack against a military vehicle, killing two soldiers and wounding six others near the Iraqi border, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.

The attack occurred close to the Iraqi border, near the town of Cukurca in Hakkari province, Anatolia said. Military helicopters flew the injured to hospitals as military units in the region launched an operation to hunt down the attackers, it said.

Last week, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Turkey had massed 140,000 soldiers along the border _ a figure the U.S. disputed. Zebari said troop levels in the region were often increased during the spring and summer in response to increased activity by PKK.

U.S. officials cast doubt on the figure.

Turkish officials have repeatedly said they are considering military operations against the PKK in Iraq, a move that the United States fears would cause further instability.

Al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government is ready either for bilateral talks or three-way talks that will include the United States. He added that the PKK matter is not new but years-old.

“We have said before that we will not allow Iraq to become a launching pad for operations against Turkey or any other country,” al-Dabbagh said.

Washington says it is working with Turkey to combat the PKK but that it is focused on combatting insurgents opposing U.S. forces.

The PKK has escalated attacks this year, killing about 70 soldiers so far. More than 110 rebels were killed in the same period.

Turkey has been battling the PKK since 1984 in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)