Turkish Troops Enter Northern Iraq

Villagers walks through a rubble at the Qlatooka village near Iraq's border with Turkey on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007. Turkish war planes bombed Kurdish rebel targets as far as 100 kilometers (60 miles) inside northern Iraq for three hours early Sunday, in the largest aerial attack against the outlawed separatist group in recent years. An Iraqi official said the planes attacked several villages, killing one woman. AP

Turkey sent hundreds of troops about 1½ miles into northern Iraq early Tuesday in an operation against Kurdish rebels but then withdrew them later in the day, Turkish and Kurdish officials said.

The raid came two days after Turkey carried out airstrikes against rebel positions in the Iraqi Kurdish region of northern Iraq, and Turkey claimed it inflicted a "heavy blow" to the rebels.

The incursion of about 300 troops - the first confirmed Turkish ground operation inside Iraq since the U.S. invasion of Iraq - did not represent a large-scale push that some feared could destabilize a relatively calm part of Iraq. In November, the Turkish military reportedly has massed 100,000 troops along the border.

Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the regional Kurdistan government, told The Associated Press that the Turkish troops withdrew about 15 hours after entering Iraq about 3 a.m.

Jabar Yawar, a spokesman for Kurdistan's Peshmerga security forces in Irbil, Iraq, told the AP that "today's Turkish military operation was a limited one, and the troops withdrew from Iraqi territory."

Late Tuesday, Turkey's military said it had inflicted heavy losses on a separatist Kurdish rebel group in airstrikes over the weekend and in a "small-scale" incursion by ground forces.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the military said ground forces based close to the border with Iraq, crossed "a few kilometers" into northern Iraq after spotting a group of rebels trying to infiltrate into Turkey. "A heavy blow was dealt to the group," it said.

The Iraqi government had called the incursion an unacceptable action that would lead to "complicated problems."

The incursion came two days after Turkey carried out airstrikes against rebel positions in northern Iraqi on Sunday.

U.S. military commanders in Iraq didn't know Turkey was sending warplanes to bomb in northern Iraq until the planes had already crossed the border, the AP has learned.

Americans have been providing Turkey with intelligence to go after Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. And a "coordination center" has been set up in Ankara so Turks, Iraqis and Americans can share information, two officials said Tuesday.

But commanders and diplomats in Baghdad were angered when they were told of Sunday's attack after it was already under way, defense and diplomatic officials said in Washington and Baghdad.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

In Other Developments:

  • The Senate voted Tuesday to provide $70 billion for U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, handing a victory to President Bush and his GOP allies on Capitol Hill.

  • The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq for one year, a move that Iraq's prime minister said would be his nation's "final request" for help. Authorization for the 160,000-strong multinational force was extended until the end of 2008 because "the threat in Iraq continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security," according to the resolution.

  • In Baghdad, some Shiite residents in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora said U.S.-backed security volunteers were trying to drive them out of their neighborhoods. The volunteers, also known as awakening councils, are groups of Iraqi Sunnis that the U.S. military has backed to help fight al Qaeda in Iraq and its allies. But Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander in Baghdad, disputed the Shiite claims, saying "we're seeing very, very little of that."

  • In London, a British Defense Ministry report said Britain has failed to meet its own targets for reducing violence in Iraq. The report came out a day after British troops handed over control of the final southern Iraqi province under their command.

  • In an overnight raid, about 250 Iraqi police raided three villages near Hawija, 50 kilometers south west of Kirkuk and 150 miles north of Baghdad in an operation against suspected al Qaeda in Iraq militants, said provincial police chief Brig. Sarhat Qadir. The six-hour raid captured 12 al Qaeda in Iraq suspects as well as another eight people, and seized a large weapons cache that included 2,500 mortar rounds, 350 Katyusha rockets, about 150 improvised bombs and about 500 mines, Qadir said.

  • A car bomb targeting a police patrol exploded in central Baghad Tuesday afternoon. Two policeman were killed, as was a civilian woman, police said. Seven other people were injured.
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