Turkey Says Considering Iraq Incursion against Rebels

Turkey is considering launching an incursion by its ground forces against Kurdish rebel bases operating in northern Iraq after a recent spate of attacks, the interior minister said on Tuesday.

"Discussions are under way for a land operation," Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

"A ground operation ... could be conducted at any time, depending on negotiations with the neighboring country," the minister added.

The comments come after reports in the Turkish media that the government and security chiefs had discussed the possibility of such an incursion after the latest assault by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) left five people dead.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan convened the meeting on Monday with his ministers of defense and internal affairs as well as the head of the army to discuss the possibility of a ground incursion into northern Iraq from where many of the PKK raids are launched, dailies Milliyet and Vatan reported.

The Turkish army has been strengthening its forces along the Iraqi border, security sources told Agence France Presse. Turkish military planes have been conducting reconnaissance flights in the area for several days, the sources added.

Three civilians attending a wedding ceremony were killed in Sunday night's attack as they were caught in the crossfire, media reports said. Two security officials and two PKK members were also killed in the attack in the town of Semdinli in Hakkari province.

Earlier this week, the foreign ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu went to Baghdad and Arbil and held talks with Iraqi and Kurdish leaders.

Turkish aircrafts have repeatedly bombed the bases of the PKK in northern Iraq since August 17, and more than a 100 rebels have been killed in the raids, according to official figures.

Turkey has launched 25 cross-border land operations against PKK targets in Iraq during the last 25 years. The latest incursion was in February 2008.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.

While the military already has parliamentary approval to launch cross border operations into Iraq that permission will only last until October 17.

Source: Agence France Presse

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