Saturday, February 23, 2008

Turkey invades, border virtually closed

On Thursday February 21, Turkey's military sent ground forces across the border into Iraqi Kurdistan, with the aim of hunting and killing PKK militants. Please carefully consider any travel into the region and don't go anywhere stupid.

News today reports bombing 'around' the town of Amadiyah, which is a town in the mountains east of Dohuk, and just south of the Turkish border. There are also reports of fighting in the areas of Hakurk and Sidekan on the Iraqi side of the border across from the Turkish town of Cukurca.

It's reported that Turkish troops are patrolling towns near the border (eg. Cizre and Silopi), and that the Habur border gate (the one between Silopi and Zakho) is virtually closed to civilian traffic, since the Turkish military is being given priority. This is a very tense and sensitive situation and you should seriously reconsider even going into that region of Turkey right now.

Kurdistan Regional Government president Massoud Barzani is reported to have visited the area where the military operation was launched and "no order of clashes with the Turkish forces has been given to the peshmerges [KRG military]."

The Turkish army's ground incursion against separatist Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq is limited in scope, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday.

"The target, purpose, size and parameters of this operation are limited," Erdogan said in televised remarks, underlining that the incursion targeted only rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party.

"Our armed forces will come back in the shortest time possible as soon as they achieve their objectives," he added.

"Several hundred, possibly a battalion of Turkish special forces, went in to pursue (rebels) in what they think is a PKK area," the official told Reuters.

The KRG has also condemned the invasion as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and called for "immediate four-party talks between Washington, Ankara, Baghdad and Erbil" to discuss the issue of the PKK.

I understand that the fighting is restricted to the mountains (which are difficult to get into with the snow anyway) and that the major cities of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah are not affected. But it's still a difficult situation and you should exercise all caution if considering visiting the region in the near future.

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