Reports say Turkish troops enter northern Iraq

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Map showing Kurdish-inhabited area overlapping the national borders of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Red arrow indicates alleged Turkish troop movement into Iraq.

Citing unnamed Turkish officials, reports say that hundreds to thousands of Turkish troops have crossed the border to Northern Iraq in pursuit of members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"This afternoon 10 Turkish helicopters landed in a village in Mazouri, which is ... 3 km (2 miles) inside the Iraqi border. They landed with around 150 Turkish special forces," said deputy minister for Peshmerga Affairs in Kurdistan, Jabar Yawir who also stated that "after two hours they left and there were no confrontations with the PKK."

DEBKAfile quotes unnamed Turkish officials as saying that the Turkish force is made up of 50,000-90,000 troops along with a fleet of armored vehicles and air support. DEBKAfile also says that the force is just the "first wave" of what is said to be an invasion.

Foreign minister Abdullah Gül has denied the reports. "There is no such thing, no entry to another country. If such a thing happens, then we would announce it," Gül said. "We are in a war with terror, we will do whatever is necessary to fight terrorism."

The United States military in Iraq has also denied the reports that any Turkish troops entered Iraq.

"We have seen no indication of Turkish troops crossing the border," said Colonel Steve Boylan, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq.

Iraqi officials also deny the reports, but say that any troops crossing the border into Iraq will not be tolerated.

"We are aware of this Turkish troop buildup on the border and the Iraqi government position has been that we will not accept or tolerate any military incursion into Iraqi territories," said Hoshyar Zebari, the Foreign Minister for Iraq.

Over 30,000 people have been killed during the PKK's campaign for independence since 1984.

In April of this year, General Yaşar Büyükanıt, the Chief of the Turkish General Staff, asked the government to authorize an incursion to quell the rebellion. In 1997, Turkey sent about 50,000 troop into the region on just such a mission.

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