turkish tank 88.
(photo credit: )
Turkish troops pounded suspected Kurdish rebel camps in northern Iraq with artillery fire, a newspaper reported Wednesday, after the government announced it would seek parliament's approval for a cross-border military operation.
Turkey's government said Tuesday it had begun preparations for its army to cross the border in pursuit of rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters Wednesday that preparations for a parliamentary authorization were under way, but did not say when the motion would reach the floor. The preparations "have started and are continuing," he said.
The measure was unlikely to reach Parliament before the end of a four-day religious holiday on Sunday, an official of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party said. He asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Such a large-scale military incursion could open a new front in Iraq. It would also disrupt one of the few relatively peaceful areas of Iraq and would jeopardize Turkey's ties with the United States, which has urged Ankara not to take unilateral steps.
On Turkey's side of the border, the military this week launched a major offensive backed by airpower against the rebels in Sirnak province, close to the Iraqi border.
Responding to more than a week of deadly attacks in southeastern Turkey by the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, Turkish troops are targeting the guerrillas' suspected escape routes in mountainous areas.
Turkish troops had "squeezed" a group of about 80 rebels on Mt. Gabar, in Sirnak, the Hurriyet newspaper reported. Escape routes were being bombed by helicopter gunships while transport helicopters were airlifting special commando units to strategic points.
Turkish troops were also shelling suspected PKK camps in the regions of Kanimasa, Nazdur and Sinath, in northern Iraq, from positions in Turkey's Hakkari province, just across the border, Hurriyet reported. Tanks were positioned near the town of Silopi, in Sirnak province, the paper said.
The paper said the government would impose an information blackout on its preparations for a possible cross-border offensive.
In the event that parliament gives its approval, the military could choose to immediately launch an operation or wait to see if the United States and its allies, jolted by the Turkish action, decide to crack down on the rebels.
Turkey conducted two dozen large-scale incursions into Iraq between the late 1980s and 1997. The last such operation, in 1997, involved tens of thousands of troops and government-paid village guards.
Other punitive measure at Turkey's disposal including cutting electricity supplies and closing the border with Iraq.