|National Security Council spoke of the need for “better co-ordination” of the military in suppressing the PKK [Reuters]|
Turkey has launched a third night of air strikes on Kurdish separatist targets in northern Iraq, its first military operation in the region for more than a year.
Ten warplanes took off from an airbase in southeastern Turkey on Friday night, the Reuters news agency reported, though the Turkish military had no immediate comment on what targets they were meant to strike.
Over the previous 24 hours, Turkish jets bombed 28 targets in northern Iraq used as bases by the banned Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the military said on Friday.
The air force launched an “effective” operation against targets in the Qandil, Hakurk, Avasin-Basyan and Zap regions, the military said in a statement on its website.
In co-ordination with the air strikes, 96 more targets in the region were kept under intense artillery fire, the statement said.
“The targets were positively identified as belonging to the PKK, and the necessary sensitivity is paid to protect civilians,” it said.
“The actions under the struggle against terror will go on with determination inside and outside the country based on the requirements of military needs,” it added.
The PKK has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union. The movement aims to establish a separate state for Kurds and to increase Kurdish rights.
The first strike came on Wednesday night after a deadly attack by the rebel group against a military unit in the town of Cukurca in southeast Turkey, killing nine security officials.
PKK spokesman Dozdar Hammo said no casualties had resulted from latest raid on Thursday evening, or earlier ones on Thursday morning and Wednesday night.
The separatists use the mountainous region as a sanctuary from which to launch attacks in southeast Turkey.
The second bombing raid by Turkey also followed a new rebel attack in the southern province of Siirt.
PKK gunmen raided two Turkish military posts by grenade and machine-gun fire, injuring three soldiers and four civilians, local security sources said.
Referring to the first night of attacks on Wednesday, the Turkish General Staff said their artillery hit 168 targets in the region overnight before warplanes pounded 60 positions in two waves.
Camps housing the PKK’s commanders were among those targeted, security sources said.
The escalation in violence came as the National Security Council, which brings together senior civilian and military officials, met for five hours on Thursday before pronouncing support for a tougher stance against the PKK.
The council, led by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, spoke of the need for “better co-ordination” of the military and police resources in suppressing the Kurdish rebels.
The body said that while the fight would be pursued “with determination” it would not renounce the rule of law and democratic norms.
“No activity which might threaten the indivisible unity of the Turkish nation will be tolerated,” the document said, without giving concrete details of the measures that will be introduced.
The council’s statement also called on Turkey’s neighbours “to accept their responsibilities” to eradicate the PKK from their territory, without naming any countries in particular.
Ankara has been revisiting its strategy against the PKK for some time.
New measures being considered by the government include sending special police and professional army units to the combat zones along the border with Iraq.
Information gathered by the police and intelligence agents will be pooled together and the Turkish military will receive a new green-light for cross border operations under the new strategy.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms in the Kurdish majority southeast in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.
According to Ankara, there are about 2,000 rebels operating from Iraq, from where they can filter back into Turkey to launch attacks.