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Turkish Warplanes Bomb Kurdish Rebel Bases In Northern Iraq

Turkish warplanes bombed several Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq in cross-border air raids "effectively hitting" several PKK targets, the military said on Wednesday.

The air strikes came a day after eight Turkish soldiers were killed in fighting with PKK rebels in the south-eastern Hakkari province that borders Iran and Iraq. At least 15 soldiers were injured in the clashes that reportedly took place in three locations in the province.

The fiercest of the clashes occurred in Yuksekova after the rebels attacked a military outpost. Although the rebel fighters fled after the attack, the Turkish military launched a major search operation in the area, involving ground troops and combat helicopters. Turkish military claimed later that more than 25 rebel fighters were killed in the operation.

Turkey has carried out numerous air strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq in recent years. The air raid began after the rebels, based in northern Iraq, carried out a cross border attack on a border outpost in south-eastern Turkey in October 2007, killing 15 soldiers and injuring 20 others.

The PKK, a militant Kurdish separatist group, began an armed struggle in 1984 for the establishment of an ethnic homeland in south-east Turkey. They have since carried out several attacks inside Turkey, including cross-border raids from their stronghold in northern Iraq.

An estimated 37,000 people have died in the two-decade-long violence unleashed by the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by most of the international community including the United States and the European Union.

Early last year, the Kurdish separatist group announced its intention to end the unilateral truce declared in August 2010. However, PKK leaders recently pledged not to target civilians in future attacks.

Nevertheless, Turkish government has initiated efforts aimed at improving the rights of the country's Kurdish minority for ending the armed separatist movement. An end to the Kurdish uprising is expected to help Turkey secure the much-coveted EU membership.

Reforms planned by Ankara provides more rights to the 12 million-strong Kurdish minority in Turkey's south-east, and includes constitutional reforms, the right to teach the Kurdish language in public universities and greater concessions to Kurdish culture.

by RTT Staff Writer

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