Kurds flee homes as Iran shells Iraq's northern frontier

Kurds flee homes as Iran shells Iraq's northern frontier
August 18th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Kurds flee homes as Iran shells Iraq's northern frontier

Kurds flee homes as Iran shells Iraq's northern frontier
Media: Guardian Unlimited UK
Byline:Michael Howard
Date: August 18, 2006

Turkey and Iran have dispatched tanks, artillery and thousands of troops to
their frontiers with Iraq during the past few weeks in what appears to be a
coordinated effort to disrupt the activities of Kurdish rebel bases.
Scores of Kurds have fled their homes in the northern frontier region after
four days of shelling by the Iranian army. Local officials said Turkey had
also fired a number of shells into Iraqi territory.

Some displaced families have pitched tents in the valleys behind Qandil
Mountain, which straddles Iraq's rugged borders with Turkey and Iran. They
told the Guardian yesterday that at least six villages had been abandoned
and one person had died following a sustained artillery barrage by Iranian
forces that appeared designed to flush out guerrillas linked to the
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who have hideouts in Iraq.

Although fighting between Turkish security forces and PKK militants is
nowhere near the scale of the 1980s and 90s - which accounted for the loss
of more than 30,000 mostly Turkish Kurdish lives- at least 15 Turkish police
officers have died in clashes. The PKK's sister party in Iran, the Kurdistan
Free Life Party (Pejak), has stepped up activities against security targets
in Kurdish regions. Yesterday, Kurdish media said eight Iranian troops were

Rostam Judi, a PKK leader, claimed yesterday that no operations against
Turkey or Iran were being launched from Iraqi territory. "We have fighters
across south-eastern Turkey. Our presence in Iraq is purely for political

Frustrated by the reluctance of the US and the government in Baghdad to
crack down on the PKK bases inside Iraq, Turkish generals have hinted they
are considering a large-scale military operation across the border. They are
said to be sharing intelligence about Kurdish rebel movements with their
Iranian counterparts.

"We would not hesitate to take every kind of measures when our security is
at stake," Abdullah Gul, the Turkish foreign minister, said last week.

There has been sporadic shelling of the region since May but officials worry
that concerted military action against PKK bases in Iraq could alienate
Iraqi Kurds and destabilise their self-rule region, one of few post-invasion
success stories. Some analysts say Ankara and Tehran may be trying to
pressure Iraq's Kurds, afraid that their de facto independent region would
encourage their own Kurdish population.

Khaled Salih, the spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Irbil,
said: "We condemn the shelling and urge the Iraqi government to demand the
neighbours to respect our sovereignty."

Despite its support base in Turkey's impoverished south-east, the PKK is
regarded by Ankara, Washington and the EU as a terrorist organisation. Mr
Judi said the PKK was seeking a peaceful and democratic solution to the
Kurdish issue in Turkey, and would welcome mediation from the US or Iraq's
Kurdish leaders.

Last week, the Iraqi government said it had closed offices run by PKK
sympathisers in Baghdad, and another office was shut by Kurdish authorities
in Irbil.

The US is also to appoint a special envoy to find a solution to the PKK
problem, but that may not be enough. Ilnur Chevik, editor of the New
Anatolian newspaper in Ankara, said: "There is huge public pressure on the
Turkish government to take action." But he doubted whether Turkish forces
would mount a full-scale invasion."The build-up of troops is designed to say
to the Americans and the Iraqis, the ball is in your court." Tehran was also
taking advantage of the situation, he said, "to show Turkey that it was
taking action against its shared enemy, while the US, Turkey's ally, has
done nothing".

Meanwhile those displaced wonder when they can resume a normal life. "We
know that the PKK are around here," said Abdul-Latif Mohammed, who fled the
village of Lowan with his family. "But they live in the mountains. So these
bombs just hurt us poor farmers."

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