Turkish air strike kills seven in Iraq: official

DVBP421 4 PW 0540 IRQ /AFP-VN54 Turkey-Kurds-unrest-military-Iraq-PKK lead Turkish air strike kills seven in Iraq: official by Shwan Mohammed ATTENTION - CHANGES dateline; INCORPORATES -toll series; ADDS background /// SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq, Aug 21, 2011 (AFP) - A Turkish air strike on a north Iraq village killed seven civilians on Sunday, an official from the area told AFP, during a bombing campaign against Kurdish separatists in the region. The deaths were the first reported casualties five days into a Turkish bombing campaign of bases belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iraq's northern autonomous Kurdish region. "Seven people, including women and children, were killed by a Turkish air strike against a civilian car in Kortek village" in Iraqi Kurdistan, said Hassan Abdullah, the mayor of the Qalat Dizah area. Abdullah added that it is difficult to determine the exact toll from the strike, as the car and its passengers were torn apart by the explosion. Strikes also targeted the areas of Sidakan and Choman in neighbouring Arbil province, Abdullah said. Sunday is the fifth straight day that Turkish jets bombed Kurdistan, and the first time that civilian or other casualties have been reported. The Turkish military launched a first wave of bomb attacks on Wednesday against PKK targets in Iraq after a deadly attack by the rebel group against a military unit in Cukurca town in southeast Turkey that killed nine security personnel. It was the first time in more than a year that the Turkish military has carried out air strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq. Turkish security sources said that PKK gunmen had on Thursday also raided two Turkish military posts by grenade and machine-gun fire, injuring three soldiers and four civilians. PKK spokesman Ahmed Denis told AFP by telephone earlier on Sunday that Turkish aircraft were bombing areas including Qandil, Khowakirk, Haftan, Jabal Mattine and Jabal Karra, all along Iraq's border with Turkey. Artillery strikes were also carried out against Khowakirk, Zakarus and Ifsahim earlier Sunday morning, he said. Denis said Turkey had also carried out air strikes against Jabal Mattine and Haftan on Saturday night. The spokesman said he believed the Turkish army was preparing for an incursion into north Iraq. "The Turkish army is making preparations on the border with the Kurdistan region of Iraq to enter in a battle with members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party," he said. Since the early 1990s, the Turkish army has carried out several land forays into northern Iraq to chase rebels. The last such offensive, which lasted eight days, was back in 2008. The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms in the Kurdish-majority southeast in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives. The Turkish military has said its operations both within Turkey and in parts of Iraq used as a safe haven by the PKK "will continue until it is eradicated." According to Ankara, there are some 2,000 rebels operating from Iraq, from where they can filter back into Turkey to launch attacks. str-sf/wd/psr/afq AFP 211318 GMT AUG 11