Turkish warplanes continue airstrikes on Kurd rebels in Iraq
The Turkish military launched airstrikes against suspected Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq on Monday, three days after 15 Turkish soldiers were killed in a Kurdish cross-border attack.
Warplanes bombed the Avasin Basyan region after spotting a group of rebel Kurds, the Turkish military confirmed. Those targeted in the raid were suspected members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an outlawed Kurdish separatist group.
A PKK spokesman said none of his group's rebel forces were hurt in the attack. His account has not yet been verified by independent sources.
"There are no PKK personnel here in this area that was bombed so we have no casualties among our fighters," Ahmed Deniz said.
Monday's attack is the latest in a series of Turkish offensives against the rebels in recent days in response to a suspected PKK attack on the Aktutun Gendarmerie Border Unit in the southeastern province of Hakkarion on Friday.
Fifteen Turkish soldiers and at least 23 insurgents were killed Friday, and another 20 soldiers were wounded. Two Turkish soldiers are reported missing, although PKK rebels said Monday they were holding their bodies after they were killed in the fight, a claim that could not be verified.
Iraq-Turkey tensions rising
With public anger mounting after Friday's attack in Turkey — the deadliest against the military in one year — Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the powerful military have pledged to intensify a campaign to crush the PKK.
The attacks in the past few days come as Turkish parliamentarians vote Wednesday on whether to extend the military's mandate for cross-border strikes targeting the rebels. The current mandate expires Oct. 17.
The cross-border offensives from either side have increased tensions between Baghdad and Ankara over the presence of rebel groups in Iraq.
The Turkish government has long accused the Iraqis of being too complacent when it comes to dealing with rebels who have found refuge in Iraq's mountainous northern regions.
Iraq has insisted its authorities have tried to subdue the PKK, but has said the remote mountainous region in which the group hides out makes it difficult for Iraqi forces to operate.
The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in the Turkish southeast since 1984. It is viewed by Turkey, the European Union and the United States as a terrorist organization. Conflicts between the group and Turkey are estimated to have cost 44,000 lives.
With files from Reuters and the Associated Press