* Turkey witnessing some of worst violence for 30 years
* At least one soldier killed in initial clashes
* Southeastern Turkey, Northern Iraq targeted
* Turkish leaders blame rising violence on Syrian conflict
By Seyhmus Cakan
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, Sept 6 Turkish fighter
planes and attack helicopters struck suspected Kurdish militant
positions in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq late on
Wednesday in a major air-and-ground operation, security sources
and witnesses said.
The offensive, which involved at least 2,000 ground troops
and 10 F-16 warplanes, underscores a growing cycle of violence
in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country - a development
Turkish leaders have linked to the nearby conflict in Syria.
"Around 2,000 soldiers are involved in the operation. Cobra
helicopters ... are bombing targets on the Kato mountain," a
security source told Reuters, referring to a location in
southeastern Sirnak province, which borders Iraq and Syria.
Up to 10 F-16 fighter jets had also been sent from a nearby
base in Diyarbakir to support the operation, the source said. At
least one soldier was killed and two wounded as the first
clashes started with ground troops.
There were no reports that Turkish ground troops had crossed
the border, although Turkey has sent soldiers into the region in
Residents across the border in northern Iraq, from where the
outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) commands its operations
against the Turkish state, said warplanes had also bombed the
remote area of Dwele inside Iraq but there were no immediate
reports of casualties.
Officials from the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional
Government (KRG) did not immediately answer calls seeking
Turkey has stepped up air operations on suspected PKK rebels
in northern Iraq over the past year after an increase in PKK
attacks. The raids have fuelled tension between Ankara and the
The Turkish assault comes days after PKK fighters killed 10
members of Turkey's security services in simultaneous attacks on
four state and security installations in Sirnak. ID:nL6E8K301Q]
Turkey has seen some of the fiercest fighting this summer
between PKK rebels and Turkish security forces since the
separatist militants took up arms in 1984 with the aim of
carving out their own state in the southeast.
The PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by
Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has since
scaled back their demands to greater Kurdish autonomy.
More than 40,000 people have been killed since the start of
Ankara has increasingly blamed the rise in violence within
its own borders on the unrest in Syria and Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan has accused Syria's President Bashar al-Assad of arming
the PKK militants.
Turkey has raised the possibility of military intervention
in Syria if the PKK were to launch attacks from Syrian soil and
on Wednesday, the military conducted a major military exercise
on the Syrian border, a clear warning to Damascus.