Thursday, April 27, 2006

Turkish, Iranian Forces attacking Targets Inside Iraq

Washington Post - Turkey has deployed more than 30,000 additional troops in its predominantly Kurdish southeast and along its rugged border with Iraq and Iran to fight Kurdish guerrillas and stop them from coming across the frontier, officials said Thursday.

Kurdish rebels killed two Turkish soldiers and injured a third in a grenade attack Wednesday on a military outpost, the Anatolia news agency reported, raising the number of Turkish troops killed this year to at least 17. More than 40 Kurdish guerrillas have also been killed in the same period in a series of clashes.

The Turkish deployment, which has been going on for several weeks, boosts an already large garrison in the region that by some estimates tops 250,000 soldiers.

Guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, have bases in northern Iraq but also have substantial forces in the mountains of southeastern Turkey. They typically step up their attacks in the spring, when winter snow melts, clearing mountain passes in the region. Turkey often increases its military activities in response.

"(The deployment) is only aimed to prevent infiltrations of the terrorist organization into Turkey," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said. Turkey regards the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Iran also reportedly has moved forces to the border, and last week shelled a mountainous region inside Iraq used by anti-Iranian Kurdish fighters believed to be linked to the PKK.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who is Kurdish, has expressed concern over reported Iranian and Turkish troop concentrations on the borders.

Gul said that since Iraq doesn't "have the capability to fight terrorism, they should be pleased with the measures we have taken and they should help us."

Turkish soldiers have been pursuing Kurdish guerrillas across the border into Iraq, penetrating up to six miles, according to a local official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

Turkey already has an estimated 2,000 soldiers stationed inside Iraq and limited incursions inside of Iraq in pursuit of rebels have not been uncommon in the past.

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish government in 1984. The fighting has so far claimed more than 37,000 lives.