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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 December 2007, 18:04 GMT
Turkish planes bomb northern Iraq
Turkish soldier looks across border with Iraq (file picture)
Turkish troops have been at the Iraq border since October
Turkish warplanes have bombed suspected Kurdish rebel bases deep inside northern Iraq - in what appears the first time fighter jets have been used.

They targeted the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in areas near the border, officials said. The Turkish media said up to 50 planes were used.

Iraqi officials say bombs hit 10 villages, killing one woman, while the PKK reported seven deaths.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the air strikes as a "success".

"Our struggle [against the PKK] will continue inside and outside Turkey with the same determination."

Turkey has regularly targeted the PKK inside Iraq in recent months, but this is thought to be the first fighter jet raid outside its own territory.

Previous strikes had used artillery or helicopters.

'Comprehensive campaign'

The planes hit the regions of Zap, Hakurk and Avasin as well as areas in the Kandil mountains in an operation lasting three hours, the Turkish military said.

A "comprehensive air campaign" was carried out from 0100 on Sunday (2300 GMT Saturday), aimed at "terrorists" and "not conducted against people living in northern Iraq or local groups not engaged in enemy activity", it added.

Click to view a detailed map of the border region

One of the sorties hit an area near the Kandil mountains, a region further away from the border into Iraqi territory, and regularly cited by Turkey as a centre of PKK activity.

Cross-border artillery barrages followed from the town of Cukurca in Turkish territory, reports say.

Local officials in northern Iraq spoke of families fleeing their homes.

Pro-Kurdish media initially reported the death of one woman and the wounding of five other civilians in a village near the Kandil mountains.

The PKK itself reportedly announced on an internet site that five of its fighters and two civilians had been killed in the mountain area, with two fighters wounded.

"Many civilians, among them women and children" were also wounded, the group was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

There is no confirmation.

Bitter dispute

Ankara toughened its line against the PKK after a spate of rebel attacks inside Turkey that prompted widespread calls for action.

In October, Turkey's parliament voted to allow the military to launch operations into Iraq to combat the PKK, which had stepped up attacks in Turkey.

Ankara has massed up to 100,000 troops near the mountainous border with northern Iraq, backed by tanks, artillery and warplanes.

But Iraq and the US have urged Turkey not to carry out its threat.

As many as 3,000 PKK members are believed to be based inside northern Iraq. Turkey has accused the local Kurdish authorities of supporting them.




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