Turkish army launches ground incursion into IraqFebruary 22nd, 2008 - 6:15 pm ICT by admin
Ankara, Feb 22 (Xinhua) Turkish troops have launched a cross-border operation into northern Iraq in pursuit of militants of the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkish military said Friday. According to a statement posted on the website of Turkey’s general staff, Turkish Air Force jets pounded PKK targets in north of Iraq between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday to destroy organisational infrastructure in the region.
Following the air strikes, Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launched a cross-border ground operation in the region since 9 p.m. Thursday, the statement said.
“Turkish Armed Forces, which paid significant attention to Iraq ’s territorial integrity and stability, will return to Turkey after it achieves the planned targets,” the general staff said in the statement.
Private NTV television said at least 10,000 troops were taking part in the cross-border offensive, which follows periodic air raids on suspected hideouts of the PKK rebel group in Iraq.
The PKK, listed by the United States and Turkey as a terrorist group, took up arms against Turkey in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic homeland in the southeast of the country. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the over-two-decade conflict.
The Turkish National Security Council (MGK) held a meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara Thursday and said in a statement that the cross-border operations against the PKK would continue as long as the armed forces think that necessary.
“The MGK reaffirmed its determination to maintain measures against the activities of the terrorist organisation and its supporters aiming to harm public order, unity and solidarity, and peace and confidence,” the MGK statement said.
“Also the council discussed measures taken by our security forces to preserve security and peace and order throughout the country,” the statement added.
The US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday that his country is “continuing to work with the Turkish government and Turkish military to provide the best possible intelligence so that the terrorist group operating in Iraqi territory can be dealt with”.
The US has said the PKK is a threat to Turkey, Iraq and to itself, and has voiced support for Turkey to launch attacks on PKK targets in northern Iraq.
The Turkish military has launched several cross-border attacks to fight separatist PKK rebels, who use northern Iraq as a launch pad for attacks against Turkey.