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Turkey Launches New Raids Into Iraq

October 12, 1991

BANIK, Iraq (AP) _ Turkish warplanes bombed and strafed northern Iraq for a second day Saturday, killing at least three Iraqi civilians, witnesses said.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani condemned the ″savage massacres″ and threatened retaliation against the Turkish military.

The attacks prompted hundreds of terrified Iraqi Kurds to flee their villages, many for the second time in seven months. They left home after the failed Kurdish uprising against Saddam Hussein following the Gulf War, and only returned during the summer from the Turkish and Iranian borders with the aid of allied forces.

Turkey says it launched the cross-border assault on Friday to flush out Turkish Kurdish rebels hiding in Iraq. Turkey has been fighting a bloody seven-year war with its rebels, who want a separate state in Turkey’s southeast.

But Barzani and witnesses said that instead of rebels, the Turkish warplanes hit civilian villages in Iraq.

Barzani, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party, the biggest Iraqi Kurdish guerrilla group, said the Turkish attacks had caused ″heavy losses to life and property.″ He gave no details.

A doctor in Shiladizy, Abdullah Jassem Menhoz, said three civilians died and 15 were wounded in two bombing runs over the settlement by Turkish warplanes.

Local sources also reported that Turkish soldiers entered northeastern Iraq. The reports could not be confirmed.

The raids mark the second time in two months that Turkey has crossed into Iraq to seek out Turkish Kurdish guerrillas known as the Kurdish Labor Party.

The rebels recently stepped up their 7-year-old campaign for a separate state with bloody strikes at Turkish military posts.

The Turkish government, seeking elections in a week, is under pressure to control terrorism. President Turgut Ozal flew to the Turkish border town of Diyarbakir on Saturday and was briefed by high-ranking army officials.

Barzani threatened in a statement issued in the Iraqi city of Dohuk to ″react strongly against Turkish forces.″

Asked for details, a senior Kurdish official, Siamend Banaa, said in Ankara, ″He means that when the Turkish soldiers come, we will shoot them.″

Barzani said the hardest-hit settlements were refugee centers at Shiladizy and Surai, both about 20 miles east of Al-Amadiyah.

At least a dozen other villages in western and eastern Iraq came under attack, said Kurdish rebel officials. Three people were wounded in the village of Chergi in eastern Iraq, doctors said. Other casualty figures were not available.

Morad Badal, 63, a farmer in Suriya, about 35 miles east of Zakho, said most of the approximately 300 residents in the rural mountain village had fled.

″We are leaving as well,″ he said, indicating about a dozen people who remained. ″What else can we do if they keep raiding us?″

″I swear by Allah that we never, ever saw a single stranger here or in the area,″ said Badal, when asked about the rebels.

In Banik, 18 miles west of Suriya, villagers claimed that the Turks had dropped bombs that spewed flammable liquid on fields and houses.

″When the bombs hit the ground, there was red fire and very black smoke. Everywhere there was fire,″ said Jafar Ramadan, 20.

Only about 10 people remained in the village of about 600, residents said.

More than 3,000 people have been killed in clashes since the Turkish Kurds began their fight in 1984.

The guerrillas want a separate Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey. Ethnic Kurds make up about one-fifth of Turkey’s population of 55 million, but enjoy few rights to express themselves as a separate culture.

Update hourly