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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Turkey shelled Iraqi area -ruling Kurdistan party

BAGHDAD, June 1 (Reuters) - A ruling party official in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region accused Turkish forces on Thursday of shelling villages inside Iraq and said one shepherd was wounded in an incident on Wednesday.

Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment on the accusations by the official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party in northern Iraq. A Turkish government official last month dismissed a similar allegation as "total fabrication."

"Yesterday morning at 11 a.m. Turkish forces shelled the village of Zawita and some other Kurdish villages," the official, Ali Auni, told Reuters by phone, referring to an area near the border.

"This led to the wounding of a 50-year-old shepherd," he added.

Ankara traditionally launches a spring offensive against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas in southeastern Turkey, an area which borders Iraq.

Iraqi security forces are trying to stop PKK fighters based in mountainous and mainly Kurdish northern Iraq from crossing over the border into Turkey. Ankara has asked U.S. and Iraqi forces to crack down on PKK units based inside Iraq.

Turkey has sent 40,000 troops to its own Kurdish areas to reinforce the 220,000 already there, the biggest build-up in years after an increase in PKK attacks.

The PKK, seeking a Kurdish homeland including southeastern Turkey, accuses Ankara and Tehran of mounting coordinated operations against the group and its Iranian wing, PJAK.

In early May, villagers in Iraq's Kurdistan accused neighbouring Iran of hitting targets inside Iraq, a charge Tehran denied.

Turkey and Iran are wary of the autonomy Iraqi Kurds have consolidated since the 2003 Iraq war and fear it might lead to more unrest among their own large Kurdish population.
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