Turkish troops have killed at least 49 Kurdish rebels in a valley near the Iraqi border, as hundreds of troops hunted down Kurdish fighters inside northern Iraq.
Earlier in the week, the Turkish government dispatched around 10,000 troops to their border with Iraq to hunt the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels after clashes with Turkish soldiers. The Iraqi government has diminished in recent weeks its opposition to this intrusion into its territory.
The renewed fighting began after 24 Turkish soldiers were killed in Cukurca by the PKK, the separatist group that began fighting for autonomy in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeast in 1984. It marked the deadliest one-day toll against the military since the 1990s.
The United States supports Turkey with money and weapons, which has increased especially since Turkey asked for more assistance in fighting the PKK. The US responded with a deal to give the Turkish government Predator drones.
Because of potential Turkish shelling and air strikes, residents of Shila Dizah in Iraq’s northernmost province of Dohuk fear crossing the mountain north of Shila Dizah to a town of about 10,000 people, and cannot access their farms. “It’s like we live in a big prison — you cannot move around,” one of the residents told the Associated Press. “The Turks … do not make a distinction between armed forces and civilians,” he said.
Military assistance to Turkey to help fight the PKK is not without precedent. In the Clinton administration, arms sales to Turkey hit an all time high just as some of theworst atrocities were committed by the government in the crackdown on separatists.