ANKARA — Turkey has been building troop levels along the border
Turkish sources said the military has amassed 50,000 soldiers in the
Sirnik province along the Iraqi border. They said the move was ordered by
Chief of Staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit to prepare for any invasion of northern
Iraq, the stronghold of the Kurdish Workers Party.
The sources said this was the largest Turkish military buildup in nearly
a decade. They said the ground force was supported by fixed- and rotary-wing
aircraft, main battle tanks, armored vehicles and artillery.
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On May 19, a Turkish soldier was killed and four others were injured
in battles with the PKK. Turkish security sources said the clashes took
place during a Turkish military operation near the city of Diyarbakir.
The Turkish daily Zaman reported on May 17 that the military force would
prevent PKK fighters from infiltrating Turkey from their bases in northern
Iraq. The newspaper said seven PKK operatives were killed and 20 others were
arrested during operations in May.
The sources said Ankara intends to increase military operations along
the Iraqi border over the next few months. They said the military plan was
supported by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan ahead of national elections on
Turkey has been pressing Iraq and the United States to eliminate the PKK
presence in the Kandil mountains. The sources said Iraqi Kurdish leaders
have pledged to terminate cross-border PKK operations and detain insurgency
Turkey's Vatan daily quoted a senior military official on May 18 as
saying that the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish government could extradite senior
PKK commanders in an effort to avoid a Turkish invasion. The commanders were
identified as PKK military chief Murat Karailan and a member of the high
command, Jamil Beyk.
The military source said Beyk and Karailan have been deemed expendable
by the PKK and Iraqi Kurdish leadership.