Fighting intensifies in northern Iraq as Turkish fighters pound PKK positions

The battles Mon. Feb. 25, four days after the Turkish ground incusion into Iraqi Kurdistan center on Hakurk, 20 km south of the Turkish border. The Turkish military reports 112 PKK Kurdish Party rebels killed and the loss of 25 soldiers. The PKK claims to have killed 27 soldiers after downing a Turkish Cobra Sunday.
Sunday, Iran stepped up security on its border with Iraqi Kurdistan.
debkafile‘s military sources report that between 1,000 and 3,000 ground troops entered Iraqi Kurdistan last week for their sixth incursion in 13 years to in pursuit of the roughly 3,000 separatists using northern Iraq as a base for attacks inside Turkey.
Most were commandos trained to fight in snow-covered mountains. They crossed the Blue River in the Dohuk Province, blowing up small bridges as they advanced, to isolate the Qandil Mountains, where most of the PKK bases are located, from the rest of Iraq.
Turkey has carried out bigger offensives than this one: In 1997, some 35,000 troops spent six weeks in northern Iraq and killed 1146 Kurdish fighters.
Government sources in Ankara give the current offensive two weeks. They confirm that the United States and Baghdad were given advance notice; neither objected as long as substantial civilian casualties were not entailed.
This condition is not hard for the two warring sides to meet since they are fighting in daunting, sparsely inhabited mountainous terrain. In any case, according to military sources, by the time the Turkish thrust reaches the main cluster of PKK bases, they will find them deserted or even dismantled. The Kurdish separatists – PKK and its Iranian offshoot, the Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK ) – pulled out a couple of months ago in the expectation of the Turkish incursion.
Some may have headed for the Iranian border – hence Tehran’s decision to reinforce its frontier with Iraq in order to prevent Kurdish terrorist factions seeking haven there. Others may have taken cover against Turkish air bombardment in caves, having stocked up on ammo and food well in advance. Even so, the Turkish military relies heavily on air strikes.
Some rebels too may have gone to ground in local Iraqi Kurdish villages from which they can launch guerrilla attacks on advancing Turkish troops and bomb their supply routes.
debkafile‘s military sources add that nothing has come so far of early fears of a military clash between the Turkish invaders and the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish pershmerga. So far only a single local brigade has advanced into the Dohuk Province abutting southern Turkey, while staying well clear of the Turkish troops.

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