Iraq says Turkish raid an ‘attack on sovereignty’

Iraq said yesterday it believed Turkey was unlikely to extend a military operation against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq but sharply criticised Ankara for what it branded an attack on its sovereignty.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh urged Ankara to end the military action — which comes after weeks of mounting cross-border tensions — and use dialogue to solve the rebel issue.
“We feel this issue will not be solved militarily. Any such action is an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty,” he told AFP.
Around 500 Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq on Tuesday targeting rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas hiding in the mountainous terrain along the border with Turkey.
The ground incursion was the first such operation since tensions between the two neighbours broke out after the rebels ambushed a Turkish military patrol on October 21 and killed 12 soldiers.
“We believe Turkey is not going to extend the operation. It is a limited operation,” Dabbagh said.
Turkey’s military said the incursion had dealt a “heavy blow” to the rebels.
“A small-scale operation conducted by ground troops… dealt a heavy blow” to PKK militants who had tried to infiltrate Turkey overnight, it said on its website on Tuesday.
Iraqi Kurdish officials from northern Iraq had said on Tuesday evening that Ankara had started withdrawing the troops.
But Dabbagh said he did not know if Turkish forces had withdrawn completely.
“It is difficult to say as the area there is not easy to track,” he said.
Turkey did not indicate how many troops took part in the incursion, which began after the army “received images” of a rebel group attempting to sneak across the border.
Local Iraqi officials said about 500 soldiers crossed into remote areas in northern Iraq and began withdrawing by Tuesday afternoon.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, has waged a bloody campaign for Kurdish self-rule in southeast Turkey since 1984. The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives.

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