Turkish Officials: Troops Enter Iraq
By SELCAN HACAOGLU
Associated Press Writer
Wed Jun 6, 2007
Turkey (AP) -- Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early
Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who attack Turkey from bases
there, three Turkish security officials said. Turkey's foreign
minister denied its troops had entered Iraq.
The senior security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity
because they were not authorized to speak to the media, characterized
the raid as a "hot pursuit" raid that was limited in scope. They told
The Associated Press it did not constitute the kind of large incursion
that Turkish leaders have been discussing in recent weeks.
One official said several thousand troops went less than two miles
inside Iraq and were still there in late afternoon. "It is a hot
pursuit, not an incursion," one official said.
Another official said by telephone it was "not a major offensive and
the number of troops is not in the tens of thousands." He also said
the Turkish troops went into a remote, mountainous area.
A third official, based in the border region, said 600 commandos
entered Iraq, and were backed up by several thousand troops along the
border. He said the commandos raided Iraqi territory across from the
Turkish border town of Cukurca before dawn after rebels opened fire
from Iraqi soil on Turkish patrols.
The official said the commandos returned to their bases in Turkey
later in the day. There was no immediate explanation for the
conflicting accounts of the officials.
All three officials are based in southeast Turkey, where the military
has been battling separatist Kurdish rebels since they took up arms in
The officials stood by their statements despite denials from Turkish
and Iraqi officials.
Turkey's private NTV television quoted Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul
as saying reports of a cross-border operation were false.
"There is no such thing, no entry to another country. If such a thing
happens, then we would announce it," Gul said. "We are in a war with
terror, we will do whatever is necessary to fight terrorism."
Several military officials at the Pentagon said they have seen nothing
Wednesday that would confirm the reports of Turkish troops crossing
the border into Iraq.
One military official said that small numbers of Turkish forces
periodically move in and out of Iraq doing counterinsurgency
operations, but not thousands at one time. The officials requested
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
While the U.S. has about 16,500 troops in northern Iraq, most of them
are not right along the border. Many of those are training teams
working with the Iraqi border patrols.
The White House said there has been "no new activity" in northern Iraq
to justify the press reports. Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the
White House's National Security Council, said that U.S. officials in
the region have confirmed that the activity is a continuation of
Turkey's years-long campaign against the Kurdish PKK guerrillas of
Kurdistan Workers' Party.
"The Turkish government reports no new incursions into northern Iraq,"
Johndroe said. "U.S. officials on the ground confirm no new activity."
Johndroe said Washington remains "concerned about the PKK and the use
of Iraq as a safe haven."
Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said he
could not confirm any Turkish troops were in Iraq but "we are looking
into it and obviously we are very concerned."
The last major Turkish incursion into northern Iraq was in 1997, when
about 50,000 troops were sent to the region.
The officials did not say where the Turkish force was operating in
northern Iraq, nor did they say how long they would be there. Both
officials are involved in anti-rebel operations, though they did not
disclose whether they participated in the planning of the operation on
The officials said any confrontation with Iraqi Kurdish groups, who
have warned against a Turkish incursion, could trigger a larger
cross-border operation. The Turkish military has asked the government
in Ankara to approve such an incursion, but the government has not
given formal approval.
An official at military headquarters in Ankara declined to confirm or
deny the report that Turkish troops had entered Iraq.
Turkish authorities rarely acknowledge such military operations, which
were more frequent before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Earlier Wednesday, reports of an incursion circulated on some media
outlets, including Turkey's private Cihan news agency.
The Turkish military said rebels across the border in Iraq opened fire
Wednesday on a Turkish military outpost in the province of Hakkari,
which borders both Iraq and Iran. It said there were no casualties.
Turkey has been building up its military forces on the Iraqi border
recently, amid debate among political and military leaders about
whether to attack separatist rebels of the PKK. The rebels stage raids
in southeast Turkey after crossing over from hideouts in Iraq.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the government has not seen
any major operations along the border.
"There has been intermittent shelling, for instance, attacks, certain
violations, minor violations on the border which we have documented
and reported back to the Turkish side, but honestly we haven't seen
any major operations along the border," Zebari told The Associated
Press in a telephone interview.
"We are aware of this Turkish troops buildup on the border and the
Iraqi government position has been that we will not accept or tolerate
any military incursion into Iraqi territories," he said.
During major incursions in the 1990s, fighting occurred on a front
stretching more than 100 miles, mostly in rugged terrain where
communications were difficult and the Turkish Kurds were already
entrenched in the mountains.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Loven in Rostock, Germany, and
Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
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