Turkish military vehicles have advanced through the border town of Silopi, in what appears to be a co-ordinated offensive against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq. Overnight, around 300 Turkish troops crossed into Iraq, pursuing rebels from the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party. There are no reports of casualties. Turkey’s government has repeatedly threatened to retaliate against PKK forces in Iraq, who stage regular raids across the Turkish border.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish forces would do whatever was necessary. Turkey’s military said its troops moved up to three kilometres into Iraq, into the mountainous Gali Rash area. It has also massed 100,000 troops on the border.
Over the weekend Turkish warplanes bombed several Iraqi villages, according to a military spokesman. The bombardment is the latest in a series of offensives designed to dislodge the rebels from their mountain hide-outs
The United Nations refugee organisation UNHCR said the bombardments had forced nearly 2000 people to leave their homes. The raids by Turkey come as the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice arrived in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk for an official visit. “The United States, Iraq and Turkey share a common interest in stopping the activities of the PKK which threaten to undo the stability of the north, which clearly have resulted in deaths in Turkey,” she said.
Multi-ethnic Kirkuk is being seen as a potential site of conflict in Iraq with Kurdish nationalists demanding it be included in their largely- autonomous region.