ON THE TURKISH-IRAQI BORDER (Reuter)–A defiant Turkey shrugged off pleas from Baghdad and its own NATO allies to cut short its anti-guerrilla campaign in northern Iraq–ferrying in fresh men–food and supplies by land and air.
Thirty civilian lorries–manned by soldiers–crossed into Iraq Tuesday–and army helicopters air-lifted equipment deep into the remote region in support of the seven-day-old attack against bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
But the border remained closed to correspondents and it was impossible to judge the scope of the operation–launched before dawn on May 14 by more than 10,000 troops–backed by tanks–artillery and air power.
Lorry drivers returning from northern Iraq said the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) had turned over a military base near Zakho to Turkish forces.
State-run Anatolian news agency–citing military sources–said more than 1,300 PKK fighters had been killed so far–with another 200 captured.
The Germany-based DEM agency–which is close to PKK members–said the Turkish military had suffered "heavy losses," including 12 soldiers killed by PKK land mines.
A much larger Turkish incursion into Iraq in 1995 failed in its stated goal of finishing off the PKK–which has waged an insurgency since 1984 in support of self-rule in southeastern Turkey. More than 23,000 people have died.
"The operation will continue until results are achieved," Defense Minister Turhan Tayan told Turkish television.
Baghdad has asked the United Nations to exert pressure on Ankara to reconsider its "aggressive policies" in northern Iraq.
Britain and France–Ankara’s NATO allies–as well as the European Union have demanded Turkey restrict its operation and respect human rights in Iraq. Even Washington–traditionally a close supporter–has been less than enthusiastic.
Anatolian news agency said Turkish forces were engaging PKK units in fire-fights–with heavy bombing of rebel positions. The pro-PKK DEM agency reported some 100 air sorties had been flown in the last two days from bases at Diyarbakir and Malatya against rebels in the Zap valley.
Meanwhile–the PKK has stepped up actions in Turkey to divert the army from the Iraq operation.
The Iraqi National Congress–citing satellite telephone contacts in the area–told Reuters the KDP–backing Turkey–had overrun all six PKK offices in Arbil and executed prisoners.
"The Iraqi (Kurdish) regional government asked the PKK to close their offices in Arbil which they had turned into military bases," KDP spokesman–Dilshad Miran told Reuters from London. "After they refused–we had no alternative for the security of the local people but to bring the bases under control by force."