Turkish military reportedly fires on rebels

.CIZRE, Turkey (AP) – Turkish warplanes and helicopter gunships reportedly pounded Kurdish rebel positions along the Turkey-Iraq border Wednesday, broadening military operations against insurgents amid persistent fears Turkey will launch a major offensive inside Iraq.

Turkish Cabinet members and military generals held a six-hour meeting in Ankara to discuss a possible operation in northern Iraq, but decided to recommend the government take economic measures first to force cooperation by Iraqis against Kurdish rebels.

The state-run Anatolia news agency reported that Turkish warplanes and attack helicopters bombed mountain paths used by rebels to cross the porous border from Iraq and stage hit-and-run attacks against soldiers in southeastern Turkey.

Residents in the Iraqi Kurdish village of Derishkit told an Associated Press reporter that two Turkish jet fighters struck a target on the banks of the Zey-Gowra River about four miles inside Iraq. They were unable to offer any more details about the apparent attack.

An A.P. Television News cameraman also saw eight F-16s loaded with bombs and attack helicopters take off after nightfall from a base in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir. The cameraman also saw about a dozen transport helicopters fly along Mount Cudi near the border with Iraq and at least one warplane fly past Cizre, a town close to the border.

The Anatolia news agency report said the warplanes and helicopters took off from Diyarbakir and “are reported to have bombed and destroyed bases of the terrorists.”

Pentagon officials declined to confirm reports of airstrikes.

“I don’t know of any Turkish airstrikes in that area today,” Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, Joint Chiefs of Staff operational planning director, told a Defense Department press conference.

The reported airstrikes come after days of Turkish shelling in the region. On Sunday, Turkish helicopter gunships penetrated Iraqi territory after Kurdish rebels ambushed a Turkish military convoy near the border, killing 12 soldiers and leaving eight others missing.

U.S.-made Cobra and Super Cobra attack helicopters also chased Kurdish rebels three miles into Iraqi territory on Sunday before returning to their bases in Turkey, a government official said Wednesday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.