GeriGündem Tens of PKK terrorists killed, Turkey continues diplomatic initiatives (UPDATED)
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Tens of PKK terrorists killed, Turkey continues diplomatic initiatives (UPDATED)

Tens of PKK terrorists killed, Turkey continues diplomatic initiatives (UPDATED)
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Turkish General Staff said on Saturday total 79 PKK members and seven Turkish soldiers were killed in the ground operation, launched on Thursday. Turkey continues to launch diplomatic initiatives. Reuters reported five more troops and 16 PKK members were killed on Sunday.

Five Turkish soldiers and 16 PKK members were killed in Sunday clashes, Reuters reported quoting a Turkish security source. Fighting intensified Sunday between Turkish troops and PKK members holed up in the Hakurk region in the rugged mountains of Iraq along the Turkish border, local security sources told AFP. Members of the Kurdish security force in northern Iraq reported hearing explosions and gunfire in and around Hakurk, a prominent PKK stronghold some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Turkish frontier. More than a dozen Turkish warplanes could be seen heading for the area. A pro-PKK news agency said about 5,000 Turkish soldiers and 60 tanks were advancing in the region of Haftanin near the border town of Zaho, west of Hakurk.

Turkish F-16 jets buzzed over the small Turkish hilltop town of Cukurca on Sunday as elite commandos chased PKK members across the border in northern Iraq in a major ground operation, AP reported. Armored personnel carriers transported troops in full combat gear and four long-range guns were positioned at the edge of a helicopter base in the border town, where at least four attack helicopter gunships were stationed. The base in Cukurca is one of the main support centers for the Turkish operation across the border, which began Thursday.

Turkish General Staff said in its latest written statement about the operation on Saturday planes and armed helicopters belonging to Turkish Armed Forces destroyed the hideouts and caves. It also added that number of terrorists neutralized in the past two days rose 79. "Two soldiers have lost their lives on February 23rd," the statement said.  

Turkish General Staff said on Saturday that many locations and weapons belonging to the terrorists, including heavy anti-aircraft weapons, were destroyed, "35 terrorists were rendered ineffective during ongoing operations." According to a statement released by General Staff, it was stated that, "a significant amount of remote controlled explosives and land mines were also destroyed."                                     

Turkish General Staff released on Sunday the latest pictures of the ongoing ground operation on its website. The army has previously released pictures of the operation on the last three days. To view the pictures please click here. (Please note the website is in Turkish.)    

The Turkish parliament authorized the government in October to send troops to northern Iraq to combat PKK based in mountain camps there, from which they conduct deadly attacks in Turkish territory. Since December 16, Turkey has conducted several air raids and one limited land incursion into Iraq to prevent a PKK unit from infiltrating Turkey. Turkey has been taking real-time intelligence assistance from the U.S.

Turkish television said between 3,000 and 10,000 soldiers had entered Iraq, but several Iraqi officials and a military source with U.S.-led coalition forces in Baghdad said only a few hundred troops were involved. The General Staff did not specify the size or length of the surprise operation, given the poor weather conditions.    

Meanwhile one Turkish soldier died on Saturday when terrorists opened fire in the southeastern town of Yuksekova in Hakkari province, Aegean Army Command said in a statement. Lieutenant Serkan Cakal's funeral will be held in Izmir.

DIPLOMACY CONTINUES    

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said on Friday he talked with U.S. President George W. Bush as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki regarding the cross-border operation, adding "This is the first time Turkey found such a strong support from the world. Our neighbors, the Middle East countries, the United States and the European Union (EU) supported us".

In Canberra US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday he hopes Turkey keeps its ground campaign against PKK in northern Iraq short and urged it to do more to reconcile with its Kurdish minority. "In terms of the current operations, I would hope that it would be short, that it would be precise and avoid the loss of innocent life and that they leave as quickly as they can accomplish the mission," Asked how short, he said, "The shorter the better."

Meanwhile Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan talked to his British counterpart David Miliband on the phone about Turkey's land operation in the north of Iraq. Diplomatic sources told the official Anatolian Agency Miliband called Babacan on Saturday evening to get information about the ongoing operations, noting that the parties exchanged views on the matter. Babacan gave information to Miliband about the operations, reaffirming that the operations only targeted terrorist PKK organization, sources added.

The AA reported that upon the directives of Babacan, a circular has been sent to Turkey's all foreign diplomatic representations throughout the world. The circular assigned Turkish ambassadors to give necessary information to the related authorities in countries they have been working. The ambassadors are also charged to explain targets and goals of Turkey with the operations.

'A HELICOPTER SHOT DOWN'
PKK claimed on Sunday they shot down a Turkish military helicopter during the fighting in northern Iraq, a pro-PKK news agency reported. The news agency, which often carries statements of the PKK, reported Saturday that PKK downed a Cobra attack helicopter near the village of Hore, close to the Turkish border. It gave no other details and cited no named sources.

The same news agency also reported that a PKK "commander" urged Kurds living in Turkey to rise up and fight the authorities. Turkish security forces raised the measurements on the weekend.


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