Turkey's military said on Tuesday that air strikes on suspected Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq this week have killed an estimated 90 to 100 terrorists and warned that it would press ahead with offensives against the terrorist group both inside Turkey and across the border. The Iranian government also has been shelling PKK and Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) targets along its section of the border.
“The government condemns and denounces all attacks and violations of the sovereignty of Iraq by neighboring countries,” Zebari said. “We do not believe that this is the best way of solving this issue.”
Despite speaking about the sovereignty of Iraq, Zebari is also a staunch supporter of the US invasion of Iraq. He repeatedly stressed last year that the US must stay in Iraq.
In the past, the Kurdish and central Iraqi governments have been reluctant to criticize Turkey for such airstrikes. Turkey is one of Iraq's main trading partners, and even some people in the Kurdish region do not support the PKK's violent struggle. But some Kurds have been angry that their government hasn't taken a strong stance against the Turkish incursion, which they consider an infringement on Iraqi sovereignty.
“Both the stance of the Kurdish regional administration and the Baghdad governments is weak and far from firm. [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki's government is too weak to stand against Turkey,” said Saman Ahmed, who participated in recent protest in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya against the airstrikes.
Turkey's military on Tuesday insisted that all targets were carefully pinpointed through repeated reconnaissance flights before being hit. “Targets hit were determined following detailed analyses that were verified several times and were included on the list of targets only after it was established with certainty that they were not areas inhabited by civilians,” it said.
The military also said in a statement posted on its website that than 80 separatists were injured in six days of cross-border air raids that began on Aug. 17, hours after eight soldiers and a government-paid village guard were killed in an ambush by the PKK near the border with Iraq. “According to initial information obtained, between 90 and 100 terrorists were rendered ineffective, more than 80 wounded terrorists were moved to hospitals or villages, and contact with a high number of terrorists was cut,” the military said. “Rendered ineffective” is a term used by the military to refer to PKK members killed.
The PKK has denied any losses, insisting that areas hit by the Turkish warplanes were long-abandoned bases. The PKK said Tuesday that the military's claim of the number of deaths was a “baseless fabrication."
“By giving these false numbers, the Turkish army commanders are trying to raise the spirits of their soldiers and to create further pretexts to continue their war against civilians,” PKK spokesman Ahmet Deniz said.
Iraqi Kurdish authorities have reported that seven civilians, including children, were killed while trying to escape the raids. The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, is fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since 1984.
The PKK has long used northern Iraq as a base for hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets. Some 40 soldiers have been killed in escalated PKK assaults since July. Turkey has carried out a number of cross-border air raids and ground incursions over the years but has failed to stop rebel infiltration through the mountainous border. The previous offensive was last summer, when warplanes launched a series of raids on suspected PKK positions and ground troops took part in a day-long incursion.