Turkish Warplanes, Artillery Units Hit Kurdish Rebel Positions in Iraq

Turkish warplanes and artillery units have struck Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq over the past two days, Turkey's military said Saturday.

The military said its raids Friday and Saturday targeted rebels who were preparing to infiltrate Turkey to carry out attacks.

Areas hit were in the regions of Zap, Avasin-Basyan and Hakurk, close to the Turkish border, where the rebels are known to have maintained bases in the past.

In the brief statement posted on its Web site, the military said all planes had returned to their bases safely after "successfully completing their duty."

There was no word on any casualties. The military said it had taken the utmost care not to harm the civilian population.

Firat, a pro-Kurdish news agency based in Europe that often carries rebel statements, said Turkish warplanes bombed the same areas in northern Iraq on Friday evening and early Saturday.

It said Saturday's bombing lasted for nearly 45 minutes.

On Friday, Firat reported the areas were "intensely shelled," from inside Turkey after being bombed by warplanes.

It said rebels did not suffer any casualties, citing rebel sources without naming them.

Turkey has staged several cross-border aerial operations against the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the past few months. In February it sent thousands of troops across the border for an eight-day ground incursion, vowing to return if necessary. It was Turkey's first major ground operation in Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.

Meanwhile, a soldier and a government-paid village guard were killed by a land mine believed to have been planted by the rebels in Turkey's Sirnak province, close to the border with Iraq, the military said in a separate statement.

The deaths raised the number of members of the security forces killed in the past two days to five. Three soldiers were killed in a clash with Kurdish rebels on Friday.

The state-run Anatolia news agency said the military on Saturday reinforced its troops on Mt. Cudi, in Sirnak province where the clash occurred, sending "a large number of soldiers and village guards." Attack helicopters were also deployed in the anti-rebel operation there, the agency reported.

The PKK has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey's southeast from bases in northern Iraq. The fighting has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.

The U.S. considers the PKK to be a terrorist organization and has been sharing intelligence about the group with Turkey.