A group of 300 Turkish troops crossed into Kurdish territory in northern Iraq Tuesday, Iraqi officials said.
Turkey said it had a right to use military force to combat Kurdish separatist rebels who shelter in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for Iraqi Kurdistan's Peshmerga security forces said the Turkish force on foot, carrying only light weapons, had entered an area in Dahuk, one of three mountainous Kurdish provinces in northern Iraq. He said the area was not populated and there were no Iraqi forces present. There had been no clashes although gunshots had been heard, he said.
A senior Iraqi military official said the small incursion appeared unlikely to develop into larger military action. "I think this is a limited incursion and will not be expanded," the source said. The Turkish foreign ministry declined to comment on the reports. Officials at Prime Minister Minister Tayyip Erdogan's office were not available for comment.
Kurdish government criticizes raid
The Iraqi Kurdish regional government criticised the raid: "We condemn this incursion. Turkey wants to transfer the problem onto the territory of Iraqi Kurdistan," said Fouad Hussein, head of the office of Kurdish regional President Masoud Barzani. He said he did not know the precise size of the Turkish
force that had crossed the border.
Turkish warplanes bombed villages in northern Iraq over the weekend. Iraq complained that at least one civilian woman was killed in the weekend strikes, and has said it wants any future military action to be coordinated with Baghdad. The incursion comes as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Iraq on a visit.
The US Embassy in Ankara did not immediately comment on the incursion. Washington, which has 155,000 troops in Iraq, said it was informed of the weekend air raids in advance. The United States says it sympathises with Turkey's fight against Kurdish guerrillas but does not want Ankara to take large-scale cross-border military action that might destabilise Iraq. Tension at the border has been high since ctober, but a full-scale Turkish invasion of northern Iraq is seen as unlikely, especially in winter months.