Turkey Says Its Planes Hit Iraq Targets

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's military hit Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq with artillery and air strikes in a two-day operation that killed at least 15 rebels, the military said Saturday.

Turkish military shelled areas in northern Iraq on Thursday after it detected a group of Kurdish rebels preparing to attack Turkish targets from their bases in Iraq, the military said in a written statement. It said 15 rebels were killed in the shelling.

Turkish warplanes hit rebel targets in a cross-border campaign the following day, but casualty figures in that assault were unclear, the statement said.

"Some targets in the same area were hit by the air force's warplanes," it said. "The number of terrorists killed in this air attack could not be determined."

A spokesman for the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, denied any rebels had been killed, saying it was a "baseless claim."

"Turkish jet fighters launched airstrikes against sites at the al-Zab border area (for three hours) with no casualties reported," Haval Danas said. "The fighter jets have bombed old sites that witnessed fierce clashes before with the Turkish army and nobody was there."

Turkey, like the European Union and the United States, considers the PKK a terrorist organization.

The Turkish statement confirmed the first cross-border action by the military since it waged an eight-day ground incursion in late February. It said it only hit confirmed rebel targets and that it did not harm civilians.

The U.S. has been sharing intelligence on the rebels with Turkey, a NATO-ally, since November.

Turkey has carried out several cross-border operations against the PKK since the parliament authorized the government last October to send troops into Iraq to fight the rebels.

Last month's operation was the only confirmed ground incursion during this period. It was also the first of its kind since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in 2003.

The PKK took up arms against the government in 1984, and tens of thousands of people have been killed in the fighting.

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