Barzani: Attack on Kandil equivalent to attack on Arbil

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani slammed Turkey over recent attacks on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), saying the cross-border offensives were targeted at the Kurds in northern Iraq as a whole.

Barzani: Attack on Kandil equivalent to attack on Arbil

Aerial strikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq, meanwhile, reportedly continued yesterday. Jabbar Yawar, a spokesman for the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq, told the Anatolia news agency that there were attacks by Turkish fighter jets near the Kandil Mountains yesterday afternoon, although no immediate confirmation has come from the Turkish military.

Barzani's harsh comments came on Saturday, the same day the Turkish military said that warplanes bombed PKK targets in northern Iraq in the third confirmed cross-border offensive by Turkish forces in less than a week. Barzani was on a visit to the area, hit by aerial strikes last weekend and reportedly cut short his visit due to the bombardment. "You are not alone, this is a problem related to the Kurdish people," Barzani, the head of the largely autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, was quoted by the Peyamner Web site, affiliated with his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), as telling residents of villages near the Kandil Mountains.

"These daily strikes are unacceptable. ... Their goal is not only the PKK but the whole idea of an autonomous Kurdish region," he told a group of families, in comments broadcast on his party's Kurdistan TV station. The bombing, lasting for almost half an hour on Saturday afternoon, was followed by shelling from inside Turkish borders, the military said in a statement on its Web site. It did not say which areas were shelled, but security forces in northern Iraq said the bombs fell about 120 kilometers northwest of Dohuk. There were no casualties reported, Yawar said.

Saturday's raid follows air attacks on Dec. 16 In the Kandil Mountains near the border with Iran, where Ankara says some 3,500 PKK members are holed up, using the area as a springboard for attacks on Turkey. Two days later, hundreds of Turkish soldiers crossed the border as they spotted a group of terrorists trying to infiltrate Turkey. The administration in Iraq's north said the soldiers left Iraq after 15 hours. The General Staff said in a statement that hundreds of terrorists were killed in the Dec. 16 attack, though it was not possible to provide the exact number of PKK casualties due to difficulties of assessing the group's losses in the mountain caves.

The statement also vowed to continue military operations on both sides of the Turkish-Iraqi border "no matter what the conditions are."

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by a large majority of the international community, uses bases in northern Iraq to launch cross-border strikes. Ankara has said it can no longer tolerate the attacks on its troops and, in October, Turkey's Parliament authorized the country's military to strike back at the PKK inside Iraq.

"Bombardment of villages near the Kandil Mountains is no different than bombardment of Arbil, Sulaimaniya or the entire Kurdistan region," Barzani told the residents on Saturday, according to Peyamner.

The United States allowed Turkish fighter jets to use Iraqi airspace and provided intelligence on the PKK for the Dec. 16 attack, angering Iraqi Kurdish leaders, who say the strikes were an assault on Iraqi sovereignty. Ankara has accused Iraqi Kurds, who run an autonomous administration in the north of the country, of tolerating and even supporting the PKK. "The Turkish government committed a cruel crime against the people of Iraqi Kurdistan when they hit Kurdish villages on the border. It is a cruel crime against unarmed citizens," Barzani said following the Dec. 16 attack. "I want to remind everybody that the blood of the people of Kurdistan is not cheap."

Later in the week, Barzani on Tuesday refused to meet with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice because of Washington's tolerance of Turkish military attacks. "The United States supervises [Iraq's] airspace, so it is not possible that a violation of this airspace occurs without the knowledge or approval of the Americans," Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the regional Kurdish government.

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Aralık 2007, 11:19