BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Kurdish officials insisted on Sunday that there had been no Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq, describing as baseless Ankara’s claims that significant losses had been inflicted on Kurdish rebels.
The Turkish military said on Saturday it had launched an “intensive intervention” to hit the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Iraq’s mountainous north.
A Turkish military official said about 100 special forces troops had crossed into Iraq and that long-range artillery and up to six helicopters had bombed a PKK camp after spotting a group of 50-60 rebels 20 km (12 miles) inside the border.
Jabbar Yawar, a spokesman for Kurdistan’s Peshmerga security forces said there had been no incursion or shelling by Turkish forces into northern Iraq.
Yawar also said there were no casualties in the area.
U.S. military spokesman Major Winfield Danielson said in Baghdad that U.S. forces in Iraq were still checking but had so far not received any reports of an incursion by Turkey.
A PKK official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters in Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq that the Turkish military’s claims were “lies and false allegations.”
Ankara has massed up to 100,000 troops near the mountainous border with northern Iraq, backed by tanks, artillery and warplanes ahead of a long-awaited strike against Kurdish rebels who use bases in northern Iraq to launch attacks in Turkey.
On Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the cabinet had authorized the armed forces to conduct a cross-border operation.
Analysts say a major incursion does not appear imminent, arguing that many Kurdish rebels have moved into Iran and that weather conditions in northern Iraq are rapidly worsening, making a large-scale military strike difficult.
Washington fears such an attack would create chaos in Iraq’s most stable region and possibly further afield.
About 3,000 PKK rebels, seeking a separate Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey, operate in northern Iraq. Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since it began its armed struggle in 1984.