BAGHDAD — Turkey sent troops and fighter jets into Iraq Wednesday in "hot pursuit" of Kurdish rebels who killed more than 25 Turkish soldiers in multiple attacks in the southern Turkish province of Hakkari. It was the first cross-border violence in five years between Turkish troops and Kurdish guerrillas who Turkey says shelter in northern Iraq.
Iraqi government officials raised no immediate objection to the Turkish incursion, and Turkish officials promised tougher action aimed at the Kurdish Worker's party (PKK) rebels.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül said “revenge for the attacks would be very forceful.”
“The revenge will be ten-fold. In the end they will see that nothing can be achieved with arms. Those who aid them should also take their lessons and bear the consequences (of their action),” Gul said in a reference to Iraqi Kurdish authorities.
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan canceled a planned trip to Kazakhstan and isntead held a meeting of his top military advis4ers in Ankara.
“Whoever gives open or close support to terror, whoever feeds, protects or aids terror, whoever tolerates terror, whoever wants to cover the bloody face of terror and whoever ignores the inhuman attacks of the terrorist organization, they should all know that the breath of the Turkish government will be in their napes of the necks,” Erdogan said.
There are more than 20 million Kurds in Turkey, many of whom look with envy on the automony that Kurds have achieved in Iraq where the Kurdish Regional Government operates virtually outside the control of the central government in Baghdad.
Mahmoud Othman, an Iraqi-Kurd who serves in iraq's parliaments, said that Turkey needs to negotiate with its Kurdish population to end the conflict.
"It has been using force – and what has force gained them? Nothing. This is not an issue that can be resolved by force. It is a political issue that can only be resolved by political means and talks." He also strongly denied that the attacks were launched from Iraqi soil.
Iraqi and Turkish officials in Baghdad could not be reached for comment.
In a written statement, the American ambassador to Ankara, Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., said "As a friend and ally, the United States will continue to stand with the people and government of Turkey in their fight against the P.K.K., which the United States has officially designated as a terrorist organization."
To which Othman responded: "The problem is that the Americans support Turkey in all its actions. And Turkey knowing this will continue on its present course. Whereas the Americans should support the people who are striving for their rights, and they should pressure the Turkish government into sitting at a table with them and listen to their grievances."
The mood in Turkey, however, was hardly accommodating.
Turkey proclaimed a day of mourning, and televison and radio stations interrupted regular programming for non-stop coverage of the events. Demonstrations were held in seven Turkish cities to protest the PKK attack. Opposition parties called for the declaration of a state of emergency in southern Turkey and called for the establishment of a buffer zone in northern Iraq to prevent future attacks.
Wednesday's attack was the Turkish military’s fourth deadliest engagement with the PKK and comes only a day after five police officers and four civilians lost their lives in the southeastern province of Bitlis in a PKK attack.