BAGHDAD – Residents in northern Iraq called for U.S. intervention after officials said artillery and rocket fire struck hillsides near villages in Iraq's border area with Turkey over the weekend.
Iraqi army Col. Hussein Rashid of the border guard forces said Turkish troops fired more than 250 artillery shells and at least 10 missiles on three areas inside Iraqi territory late Saturday. But, he said, the shelling caused no casualties or damages as it hit only abandoned areas in the mountains.
AP Television News footage shot from the village of Inshki, 20 miles from the Turkish border, showed a hillside dotted with balls of fire, terrifying residents below.
"We condemn the Turkish bombardment of Kurdish areas," Salih Kaka Ameen told APTN in Irbil, a city in the Kurdish-controlled north. "We demand that American intervene to put an end to this crisis."
The Turkish military said Saturday that its troops have heavily responded to armed attacks from northern Iraq and will continue to do so but did not give details.
The Turkish government, meanwhile, decided to send a motion to Parliament seeking approval for a military operation against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, a government spokesman said.
The spokesman, Cemil Cicek, said he hoped Parliament would vote on the motion this week — passage is considered likely — but indicated that the government would still prefer a solution to the conflict that did not involve a cross-border offensive.
Cicek said any military operation would target the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK. The statement appeared to be aimed at reassuring Iraq's central government as well as Iraqi Kurds, who run their own administration in northern Iraq.
U.S. officials have urged NATO-ally Turkey not to send troops and appealed for a diplomatic solution with Iraq. The Kurdish self-rule region in northern Iraq is one of the country's few relatively stable areas and the Kurds also are a longtime U.S. ally.
A spokesman for the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq declined to comment.
"We are waiting the Turkish parliamentary authorization for a cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels in Iraq and then we will announce our official stance," Jamal Abdul Rahman said.
During the 1990s, Turkish troops penetrated Iraqi territory several times, sometimes with as many as 50,000 troops. The Turkish forces withdrew, leaving behind about 2,000 soldiers who remain to monitor rebel activities. Ankara rotates the troops there time to time, but it has not sent reinforcements. A tank battalion has been stationed at a former airport at the border town of Bamerni.
The separatist rebels have been fighting the Turkish government since 1984 in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.