ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) – Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish rebel bases deep inside Iraq for three hours, Turkey’s military and a rebel spokesman said Friday.
The warplanes hit Iraq’s Qandil region as well as 10 other sites near the Iraq-Iran border in an operation that began Thursday night and stretched into early Friday, rebel spokesman Ahmed Danas said.
The Turkish military confirmed reports of an air-assault on Qandil and released aerial video footage and pictures of the raid. It said 43 rebel targets, including 29 shelters, were attacked.
There were conflicting reports on rebel casualties. Danas said no rebels were killed or injured in the air operation.
The military said “a large number” were killed, while an official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, said the bombing killed four rebels. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists, said several houses were damaged in the village of Marado, near the Iranian border. The official said he learned details of the attack from villagers in the area.
Turkish state-run media and Firat, a pro-Kurdish news agency based in Europe, both reported the bombings.
Turkey is battling Kurdish rebels known as the PKK, who took up arms in 1984 in their bid for self-rule in the country’s mainly Kurdish southeast. The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people.
The group’s leadership is believed to be hiding in Mount Qandil, which straddles the Iraq-Iran border and is 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Turkey’s border with northern Iraq.
The Turkish military has launched several air assaults on PKK targets in northern Iraq in recent months. In February, it staged a major ground offensive which lasted eight days. Since then, clashes between rebels and Turkish troops have erupted along Turkey’s border with Iraq.
Turkey, the United States and the European Union list the PKK as a terrorist group.