Turkish warplanes attacked Kurdish guerrilla targets in northern Iraq military sources said, in apparent retaliation for a rebel attack in southeast Turkey which killed a dozen soldiers earlier in the day.
The planes took off from a base in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir and struck targets in the mountainous Kandil and Zap areas of Iraq where the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants operate a number of bases, the sources said.
They said the targets included anti-aircraft defences and rebel shelters in the region, where several thousand PKK rebels are based and from where they launch attacks on Turkey, Reuters reports.
Dozdar Hamo, a PKK spokesman told Reuters in Iraq: “The border area has been bombed since 9 pm (1800 GMT) by Turkish planes, and the bombing is very intense. Nearby there are three Kurdish villages. We have no casualties on our side. We don’t know if there are any casualties among villagers.”
The Turkish military has carried out similar air attacks on the rebel hideouts there in recent years.
“Different areas along the border have been bombed by Turkish aircraft on the pretext that there are camps from the PKK,” said Ahmed Qadir, a local government representative in the hamlet of Sedaka, near the Turkish-Iranian border in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
“These places have no population because most people left a month ago after they were bombarded by Iranian artillery. Even shepherds have stopped going to these places,” he said.
Turkey and Iran have often skirmished with Kurdish rebels in that region. Last month Iranian shelling of the area forced hundreds to flee their homes during clashes with the PJAK, an Iranian offshoot of the PKK.
The latest operation came hours after reports of an attack by Kurdish rebels on a military convoy in southeastern Turkey.
Eleven solders and a member of the state-backed village guard militia were killed in the ambush in Hakkari province’s Cukurca district near the Iraqi border, Turkish media reported.
The PKK did not immediately claim responsibility.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan condemned the killings, saying those who carried out such attacks would “pay the price.”
“Our patience has finally run out. Those who do not distance themselves from terrorism will pay the price,” Erdogan told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Istanbul.
NEW ANTI-PKK OFFENSIVE
President Abdullah Gul said the cost of carrying out such raids against the Turkish state would be “very big,” state-run Anatolian news agency said.
Recent Turkish media reports have said Erdogan plans to launch a new offensive against the PKK in southeastern Turkey after the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
In July, Kurdish fighters killed 13 troops, the highest death toll for Turkish troops in an attack since the PKK ended a cease-fire in February. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in 1984.
The air raid was carried out on the eve of a meeting of the National Security Council, which meets once every two months and which was expected to discuss the recent upsurge in separatist violence.
It also followed a period of upheaval in the armed forces, with four new top commanders appointed to replace those who resigned in protest at the jailing of hundreds of their colleagues in connection with anti-government conspiracies.
Last month, the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan sent word through his lawyers that he had agreed with Turkish officials to set up a “peace council” aimed at ending the conflict.
Ocalan said the council should be formed within one month, although it was unclear what form it would take.
The proposal came a month after Erdogan’s AK Party won an election for a third term in power and two months after Ocalan threatened war unless the government entered talks.
But on Wednesday Erdogan said the government was “finished with talking.”
“From now on there is nothing to talk about. We will see what happens,” he told reporters.