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Turkish army launches ground offensive in Iraq

ANKARA- Hürriyet Daily News | 10/20/2011 12:00:00 AM |

A major military offensive, backed by fighter jets, helicopter gunships and surveillance aircraft, focuses on five areas inside Turkey and northern Iraq. ‘This is an operation to get results,’ says Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, also pressing for Iraqi action against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party

About 10,000 elite Turkish soldiers have launched a hunt for Kurdish militants in southeastern Turkey and across the border in northern Iraq in one of the largest ground operations in recent years in a move Ankara said it hoped would “get results.”

 With the offensive under way, Ankara hosted a senior Iraqi Kurdish official to press for operational support from the Kurdistan Regional Government against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose bases in northern Iraq serve as a springboard for attacks on Turkey.

 The offensive, backed by fighter jets, helicopter gunships and surveillance aircraft, focused on five areas inside Turkey and northern Iraq to hunt down the PKK militants who killed 24 soldiers in eight simultaneous assaults in the border province of Hakkari province on Oct. 19, the general staff said yesterday.

 A total of 22 battalions, made up of commandoes and special forces, were taking part in the offensive, the statement said, without specifying how many of them had crossed into Iraq. According to reports, the cross-border operations targeted the PKK camps in the Zap and Avaşin areas.

 “This is an operation to get results. Our objective is to make a first step at the determined coordinates and see what we can achieve,” PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said,” following a meeting with media bosses.

 Most of the fighter jets involved in the operation took off from a military base in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. Cargo planes carried equipment and possible reinforcement to the base from other parts of the country.

 Pressing also for Iraqi Kurdish action against the PKK, Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu both held talks yesterday with Nechirvan Barzani, the deputy head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who was dispatched to Ankara by his uncle, northern Iraq’s head, Masoud Barzani.

“There are things that we should do together with the peshmarga,” Erdoğan said, referring to northern Iraq’s armed militia forces. He added that Masoud Barzani himself, with whom he spoke over the phone, would visit Ankara “in the shortest possible time.”

 Erdoğan said he talked with U.S. President Barack Obama and stressed the need to revive a trilateral mechanism of cooperation between Turkey, Iraq and the United States against the PKK.

Speaking to reporters, Nechirvan Barzani, “strongly” condemned the PKK attacks and extended condolences to the Turkish people. “We believe that such attacks do not serve the interests of either the Turkish or Kurdish people,” he said.

He praised Ankara’s so-called “Kurdish opening,” launched in 2009, saying that “those steps are bold and we believe Kurdish people will benefit them courageously.”

In further remarks yesterday, Erdoğan lashed out at the opposition for blaming the escalating PKK violence on government policies. He also fired broadside at the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), arguing that its attitude was “far from sincere but rather encouraged the murderers.”

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