Report: Turkish Troops Destroy Three Major Camps
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkish troops destroyed three major Kurdish rebel camps in northern Iraq today, a news agency reported, and hundreds of Kurdish civilians were fleeing the Turks’ assault.
Fighter jets flew sorties and soldiers skirmished with guerrillas trying to escape the Turkish assault, the Anatolia news agency said.
About 35,000 Turkish troops have fanned out since Monday over 3,000 square miles of northern Iraq in an effort to destroy camps the guerrillas use for hit-and-run attacks inside Turkey. Turkey says about 2,800 rebels are based in about 20 camps.
The rebels have been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey since 1984, and about 15,000 people have been killed. Kurds make up one-fifth of Turkey’s population of 60 million people.
Today, on the fifth day of the Turkish military operation, troops wiped out camps in Bersivi, Batufa and Metina, Anatolia said. Soldiers proceeded with difficulty in the Hakurh region because of 6-foot-deep snow, it said.
Northern Iraq is home to 13,00 Kurds who had fled Turkey last year after troops forced them to evacuate their villages or burned their communities down.
Hundreds of Kurdish civilians are fleeing the latest assault, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said today. About 200 Kurdish refugee families living in the town of Zakho, 5 miles from the Turkish border, have pleaded with the U.N. agency to take them to U.N.-run refugee camps further south, spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.
A Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan, today claimed Turkish forces were targeting Kurdish refugees in the area.
``We urge the international community not to remain silent to these acts of massacres,″ Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press in Nicosia, Cyprus. There was no independent verification of the allegations.
The United States and the European Union have expressed concern for the safety of Kurdish civilians in the area, but stopped short of denouncing the Turkish operation.
Fourteen Turkish soldiers have died since Monday and the bodies of 161 rebels have been recovered, the military said.
Calls have been growing from Turkish opposition parties to maintain a permanent Turkish military presence in northern Iraq, where Iraqi Kurds set up an autonomous zone after the 1991 Gulf War.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry today denied German accusations that it was using German-supplied tanks against the Kurdish rebels. Under an agreement between the two countries, Turkey is not to use German-supplied weapons in its war against separatist Kurds.