Turkish Black Hawk helicopters have been flying into Iraq
The Turkish army says it has killed 41 more Kurdish rebels in the most recent clashes of its incursion in north Iraq.
Two Turkish troops also died in the fighting that brought the toll of rebels killed to 153 since Thursday, a statement on the army website said.
_44449698_turk_afp_416b.jpg

A Kurdish news agency said that Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels had forced the Turkish army to retreat in some areas.

The Iraqi government has urged Turkey to withdraw its forces.

But a spokesman for the Turkish government spokesman said Turkey had the right to defend itself against attacks launched from northern Iraq and operations would continue for as long as necessary.
_44449897_helicopter_ap_203b.jpg
The new fighting has prompted the Turkish president to postpone an African trip.

Booby traps

The army targeted about 30 PKK shelters during the fourth day of heavy shelling, destroying weapons and equipment, according to the army website.

_44450418_funeralsap203c.jpg
Funerals for Turkish guards have been taking place in border towns

Clashes between ground troops were also continuing.

“Terrorists trying to flee the region under our troops’ control suffered heavy losses under fire from close quarters overnight,” according to the statement by the Turkish army’s general staff.

Retreating rebels had set booby traps under dead bodies and planted mines on escape routes, the military said.

Earlier, the army had released footage of helicopters taking off from an unnamed military base in the south.

It also showed military vehicles transporting soldiers, as well as infrared sensor images of bombing attacks.
turquia-en-norte-de-iran.jpg

It is not clear where or when the footage was recorded, but Iraqi Kurd officials say Turkish forces struck PKK positions about 20km (12 miles) from the border.

The Associated Press news agency reports that the sound of artillery fire could be heard in the border town of Cukurca.

US concern

Seventeen Turkish troops have been killed since the fighting started and funerals attended by military commanders and top politicians have been taking place in border towns.

laun.gif
 (a detailed map of the border region)

The Turkish authorities launched the cross-border attack on Thursday night, after accusing the Iraqi government of failing to stop the PKK from using the area as a safe haven.

Washington has called on Turkey to keep its campaign in Iraq – another US ally – as short as possible.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul was due to begin a four-day trip to Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo on Tuesday.

A presidential spokesman told AFP news agency that the visit had been postponed because “the president wished to be in Ankara while the operation is still under way”.

More than 30,000 people have been killed since the PKK began fighting for a Kurdish homeland in south-eastern Turkey in 1984.

The US, the EU and Turkey regard the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

The South Korean Christian missionaries posing for before leaving for Afghanistan at Incheon International Airport.
religion_so_koreans.jpg
South Korean Christian Missionaries Kidnapped in Afghanistan

For six weeks. Two were executed. If you weren’t aware of their ordeal, you’re probably not Korean — which is not an ethnic slam, but a reminder to those who haven’t yet realized it that the religious world, too, is flat. The Taliban took 23 hostage last fall, killed two, released two, and reportedly ransomed the rest to the South Korean government for $10 million (the South Korean government denied paying).

Back home, the missionaries apologized to the government. The incident revived discussions of martyrdom, evangelization, citizenship and discernment, and underlined the extent to which the West is no longer necessarily the driving force in Christian evangelization.

AFP / Getty

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called on the US and European governments to stop treating Colombian left-wing rebel groups as terrorists.

_44350970_chavezrojas_ap203b.jpg

Mr Chavez said the Farc and ELN guerrilla movements were armies with a political project and should be recognised as such.

He was speaking a day after helping manage the Farc’s release of two hostages held for more than five years.

The Colombian president swiftly rejected Mr Chavez’s idea.

_44351031_uribe203ap.jpg

Just a day after helping to broker the liberation of two high-profile hostages, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, Mr Chavez used his annual state of the nation speech to make the appeal, addressing himself to Colombia’s conservative President Alvaro Uribe.

“I ask you (Uribe) that we start recognising the Farc and the ELN as insurgent forces in Colombia and not terrorist groups, and I ask the same of the governments of this continent and the world,” Mr Chavez said.

‘Pain and poverty’

But Mr Uribe quickly rejected the idea.

He said the insurgents were terrorists who funded their operations with cocaine smuggling, recruited children and planted land mines in their effort to topple a democratically elected government.

“The only thing they have produced is displacement, pain, unemployment and poverty,” Mr Uribe said.

The Colombian and Venezuelan presidents have been squabbling for months over Mr Chavez’s role in trying to mediate swap of hostages for guerrilla prisoners held by Colombia’s government.

The release of Ms Rojas and Ms Gonzalez was the most important handover in the Colombian conflict since 2001.

The Farc said the unilateral move showed its willingness to negotiate over remaining hostages.

Correspondents say it was a triumph for Mr Chavez, who greeted the women in Caracas on Thursday following their release.

The Venezuelan president has said he wants to repeat the success with dozens of other captives.

But Mr Uribe has been wary of his Venezuelan counterpart’s involvement.

The Farc and the smaller ELN say they are fighting for a fairer distribution of wealth.

In 2002 the EU joined the US in classifying the Farc as a terrorist group.

* BBC NEWS: