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Turkey Ends Air Raids on Rebel Kurds

<i> Associated Press</i>

The largest air offensive against rebel Turkish Kurds in northern Iraq is over, but Turkey will not relinquish a military buffer zone along the border, officials said Friday.

The attacks on the guerrilla strongholds began Monday. The Iraqi Kurds, who deny any alliance with the Turkish Kurds, have charged that the bombing killed at least 15 Iraqi civilians, which Turkey has denied.

Iraqi Kurds control most of northern Iraq since the withdrawal last month of U.S.-led allied troops, deployed to protect refugees who fled a crackdown by Saddam Hussein’s forces. Turkish Kurds have long kept rear-guard bases in the area.

Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said air force bombing had stopped and that troops Friday were close to taking over a Kurdish guerrilla training camp in northern Iraq. He predicted the land battle could end today.

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The Turkish air strikes and ground attacks were the harshest military action against the Turkish Kurds, who have waged a seven-year insurgency for an independent homeland in southeastern Turkey.

Turkey plans to establish a 3-mile-deep buffer zone along the rugged 220-mile frontier to block cross-border raids by the guerrillas.

Turkish warplanes and gunships have carried out at least 132 missions against rebels strongholds. State television on Friday showed heavy bombing in the area where Iraq, Iran and Turkey converge.


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