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Turkey bombs suspected Kurdish rebel targets in Iraq

  • Story Highlights
  • Turkish planes strike across border in northern Iraq, military says
  • "Security zones" along border will restrict travel March 15-June 15
  • Kurdistan Workers Party, Turkey have clashed since early 1980s
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By Ivan Watson
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ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkish warplanes bombed suspected Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq on Thursday, a military spokesman said Friday.

The Turkish military has been carrying out airstrikes against camps of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, periodically over the past year. The targets are typically in remote mountains on the Turkish-Iraqi border.

Earlier this week, Turkey's military announced it would establish a series of "temporary security zones" along the border, where travel would be restricted from March 15 to June 15.

The announcement prompted speculation Turkey could be planning a cross-border ground operation.

Last winter, thousands of Turkish soldiers crossed the border and advanced several miles into Iraq, where they fought pitched battles with Kurdish rebels. The Turks withdrew several days later after claiming to have killed hundreds of PKK guerrillas. According to official figures, at least 24 Turkish soldiers were killed in the operation.

Since then, Kurdish rebels have mounted deadly attacks against Turkish border posts, including one in October that left at least 15 soldiers dead.

The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has been going on since the early 1980s and has claimed more then 30,000 lives. Most of the dead are believed to be ethnic Kurds.

The rebels have said they are fighting for the cultural and linguistic rights of Turkey's long-oppressed Kurdish minority. For decades, the Turkish state denied the existence of Kurds, calling them "mountain Turks."

For the first time this year, however, the Turkish government launched a state Kurdish-language TV channel called TRT Shasht, which means "6" in Kurdish.

And this month, Turkish security forces began digging near the Iraq border, hunting for the bodies of Kurdish civilians who were allegedly killed, doused in acid and buried in what local media have dubbed "acid wells."

Bones, as well as remnants of hair and human clothing, were discovered this week at the site. Authorities are doing forensic analysis to determine whether the bones are human.

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