Turks Keep Up Attack Inside Iraq

Turkish troops pursuing rebel Kurds fought fierce battles Saturday around northern Iraq’s Metina mountain, and warplanes reportedly hit three villages at its base.

Troops also occupied a summer palace of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Sarsang, 15 miles from the border and site of an airfield, reporters there said.

A Turkish military spokesman, Col. Dogu Silahcioglu, said he could neither confirm nor deny that troops had reached Sarsang.

At least one villager was killed in the bombings around Metina mountain, the private ATV Turkish television channel said. Other reports from the area said no one was killed.

Fewer than 500 Iraqi Kurds lived in the villages - Dergala, Beshila and Shilaza - and most of them had fled by Thursday. The mountain is about 25 miles east of the border town of Zakho.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees planned Sunday to move up to 2,000 refugees from camps near the border to safer ones farther south.

A major Turkish operation to flush out guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK, entered its sixth day Saturday. Some 35,000 troops backed by tanks and warplanes are taking part in the offensive against the PKK, which has sought autonomy for Kurds in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Officials said the army has occupied a 140-mile strip of Iraqi territory extending roughly 28 miles south. The rebels attack targets in Turkey from bases in northern Iraq, where Iraqi Kurds have set up a de facto state under Western military protection since the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq has protested Turkey’s incursion, but Saddam has no control over the region.

Gen. Hasan Kundakci said Friday that 168 rebel bodies have been recovered. Sixteen soldiers have been killed and 66 wounded, he said.

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