ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish troops shelled a border area in northern Iraq early Sunday in an attack on Kurdish rebels based there, an Iraqi Kurdish leader said.
The leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, said there was shelling by Turkish troops on Kurdish areas but no incursion.
“We reject any interference in Iraqi affairs and we do not accept any presence of Turkish forces on Iraqi lands. There was shelling by the Turkish troops on Kurdish areas. The Turkish army did not enter Iraqi territory yet but if they did, we would consult the Iraqi government and deal with it as an Iraqi issue,” Barzani said at a news conference after meeting with fellow Kurdish leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Earlier Sunday, the Belgium-based Firat news agency, citing the rebel group PKK, said Turkish artillery targeted the Hakurk area in northern Iraq and that no casualties were reported. Firat did not name its source in the rebel movement.
Turkish authorities, who have called the Firat agency a mouthpiece of the PKK, were not immediately available to comment.
Kurdish guerrillas have long had camps in the Hakurk area, nine miles from the Turkish border.
Turkish troops have occasionally launched brief raids in pursuit of guerrillas in northern Iraq, and have sometimes shelled suspected rebel positions across the border. Turkish authorities rarely acknowledge such military operations, which were more frequent before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Turkey has been building up its military forces on the Iraqi border in recent weeks, amid debate among political and military leaders about whether to attack separatist rebels of the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The rebels stage raids in southeast Turkey after crossing over from hideouts in Iraq.