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Turkish planes bomb Kurdish rebel hideouts

/ Source: The Associated Press

Turkish warplanes bombed 70 Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq on Monday, the military said.

Turkey, which is planning operations against the rebels with the help of U.S. intelligence, has reported five aerial attacks against the PKK guerrilla group in northern Iraq in the past two months. The PKK, which is led by Turkish Kurds who seek autonomy in southeastern Turkey, has launched attacks over the frontier into Turkey from safe havens in Iraq.

"Warplanes belonging to the Turkish Air Force hit targets of the PKK terrorist organization in the Avasin-Basyan and Hakurk regions of northern Iraq in an effective aerial attack that began at 3:00 a.m. (0100 GMT)," the military said on its Web site.

It said the planes hit 70 targets that were "detected and verified by intelligence sources," but did not specify the origin of the intelligence. All planes returned safely from the 12-hour operation, the military said.

"Utmost sensitivity was shown so that the civilian population in the region was not affected," it said.

Adem Uzun, a member of the rebel command, said 15 to 20 Turkish jets bombed rebel areas in northern Iraq, according to Firat, a Kurdish news agency. The agency reported that Uzun said in an interview with a Denmark-based Kurdish television station that the rebels had not suffered any casualties.

Senior Iraqi Kurdish officials confirmed earlier Monday that Turkish jets bombed areas near the towns of Khnera, Khwakurd and Sidakan in Irbil province.

No casualties, official says
There were no civilian or Peshmerga Kurdish fighter casualties in the mostly abandoned area, said Jabbar Yawar, an undersecretary at the ministry governing the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan regional government.

On Sunday, the Turkish military said troops killed 10 Kurdish rebels at the end of a three-day operation in southeastern Turkey.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey for more than two decades in a campaign that has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.

Turkey has frequently targeted the PKK in raids into Iraqi territory, where thousands of rebels are based. The rebel group is believed to have a large base in Khnera, one of the locations that was reportedly hit on Monday.

It was the fifth confirmed cross-border aerial Turkish attack since Dec. 16. Iraqi Kurdish officials, however, have reported other air strikes by Turkish jets, but those have never been confirmed by Turkey.

Turkey's military says the raids have inflicted heavy losses on the PKK, killing as many as 175 rebels and destroying command and logistic centers, shelters, and ammunition depots. PKK officials have disputed claims that their operations have been thrown into disarray.

The winter is usually a period when rebels rest and resupply before escalating attacks in the spring. Some previous cross-border campaigns by Turkey have hurt rebel strength, but failed to eradicate the group.

The United States, which along with Turkey and the European Union considers the PKK a terrorist organization, has cautioned Ankara against a large, ground-based incursion into northern Iraq, fearing it could disrupt one of country's more stable regions.