Iraqi security: Turkish planes bomb border

/ Source: The Associated Press

Turkish warplanes bombed areas in northern Iraq in an attack against separatist Kurdish rebels Wednesday, an Iraqi security official said.

If confirmed by Turkey, they would be the first airstrikes since the military ended an eight-day ground incursion Friday.

Turkish planes bombarded Dashti Barzji in Irbil province, about 15 miles from the Turkish border, Iraqi border guard Capt. Saleh Ali told The Associated Press. The area is uninhabited and there were no reports of casualties or damage, he said.

Turkish private NTV television, citing an Iraqi Kurd official, reported that military helicopters attacked the region of Sidekan, 30 miles south of the Turkey-Iraq border.

Turkey's military has not yet confirmed or denied the reports.

Late on Wednesday, several military planes took off from an air base in Diyarbakir, in southeast Turkey, but it was not clear if they were on a bombing mission.

Political tensions in Turkey have been growing since the military announced the end of the ground incursion in northern Iraq. The opposition has accused the government of bowing to pressure from the U.S. to end the campaign prematurely.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had asked Turkey a day earlier to wrap up the operation.

Turkish government and military officials have fervently denied any U.S. influence on the decision to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Senior Turkish military officials have said the ground incursion was a success.

Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, chief military commander, has said the decision was made for military reasons after the operation achieved goals the military had set.

The ground operation followed a series of air assaults against the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who have been accused of using havens in northern Iraq to launch guerrilla attacks against Turkish targets.

Turkey's parliament authorized the government in October to send troops into Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels.

The U.S. started sharing intelligence with Turkey against rebels after a meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Nov. 5.

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 and has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey's southeast. The conflict has killed up to 40,000 people.