White House denies reports claiming thousands of Turkish troops enter Iraq
Hundreds of Turkish soldiers crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish fighters who attack Turkey from bases there, Turkish security officials said. One official said the troops had returned to their bases by the end of the day, but Turkey's foreign minister denied they had ever entered Iraq.
The senior security officials, speaking to the AP, characterized the raid as a "hot pursuit" raid that was limited in scope. They said it did not constitute the kind of large incursion that Turkish leaders have been discussing in recent weeks.
One official said several thousand troops went less than two miles inside Iraq and were still there in late afternoon. "It is a hot pursuit, not an incursion," one official said.
Another official said by telephone it was "not a major offensive and the number of troops is not in the tens of thousands." He also said the Turkish troops went into a remote, mountainous area.
A third official, based in the border region, said 600 commandos entered Iraq. According to him, the commandos raided Iraqi territory across from the Turkish border town of Cukurca before dawn. The official said the commandos returned to their bases in Turkey later in the day.
Several military officials at the Pentagon said they have seen nothing Wednesday that would confirm the reports of Turkish forces crossing the border into Iraq. One military official said that small numbers of Turkish forces periodically move in and out of Iraq doing operations, but not thousands at one time.
The White House said there has been "no new activity" in northern Iraq to justify the press reports. Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said that U.S. officials in the region have confirmed that the activity is a continuation of Turkey's years-long campaign against the Kurdish PKK guerrillas of Kurdistan Workers' Party.
"The Turkish government reports no new incursions into northern Iraq," Johndroe said. "U.S. officials on the ground confirm no new activity."