Iraqi Shia Muslims, supporters of the movement of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, burn an Israeli and US flags whilst waving their own national flag during a demonstration following Juma prayers in Baghdad's Sadr city district yesterday. A top US commander Thursday voiced optimism US troop levels could be cut substantially in western Iraq particularly after provincial elections in the former insurgent stronghold.Photo: AFP
Turkey's military said Friday that its airstrikes in northern Iraq last week killed 25 Kurdish rebels and wounded many more.
Military spokesman Brig Gen Metin Gurak cited intelligence reports for the casualty figures from the Oct. 17 attacks on Qandil Mountain an area where Kurdish rebels are said to train and where their leadership is believed to be in hiding.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels, and the figures could not be verified independently.
A further 17 PKK rebels were killed in security operations inside Turkey in the past week, Gen Gurak said.
The Turkish government has intensified its campaign against the PKK, which has stepped up its attacks in Turkey.
Three weeks ago the separatist group killed 17 soldiers in an attack on a Turkish military outpost on the Iraqi border.
Turkish artillery and air raids into northern Iraq, where the PKK is based, have become more regular events
The military has staged several cross border air strikes since Kurdish rebels killed about two dozen Turkish soldiers in attacks earlier this month. Turkey also increased pressure on the local Iraqi Kurdish administration to crack down on the group, which carries out attacks from bases in Iraqi territory.
Turkish military units on the Iranian border and in the province of Hakkari, bordering both Iran and Iraq, have repelled two major rebel attacks this week, Gurak said.
He also urged calm after a week of violent protests across the country sparked by allegations that Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan was mistreated in prison. The government has strongly denied the allegations. Ocalan is serving a life sentence on a prison island off Istanbul for leading a separatist war for autonomy in Turkey's southeast.
Police clashed with Kurdish protesters who torched dozens of vehicles and shops, mostly in Istanbul and the Kurdish-dominated southeast, where the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, have been fighting for self-rule since 1984.
Turkey has carried out several aerial attacks and one major ground operation against rebel bases across the border with Iraq this year.
Earlier this month, Turkey's parliament also extended by one year the government's mandate to order cross-border military strikes against the PKK in northern Iraq, which has been in effect since October 17, 2007.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in the southeast in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 44,000 lives.
Turkish officials estimate about 2,000 PKK rebels are holed up in the mountains of northern Iraq, where they allegedly enjoy free movement and obtain weapons and explosives for attacks in Turkey.