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 Pentagon says American predator drones shifted from Iraq to Turkey

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Pentagon says American predator drones shifted from Iraq to Turkey  15.11.2011  

November 15, 2011

WASHINGTON, — The United States has deployed Predator drones to Turkey from Iraq for surveillance flights in support of Ankara's fight against Kurdish PKK rebels, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

With US forces withdrawing from Iraq by the end of the year, the four American unmanned aircraft will be shifted from an air field in northern Iraq to the Incirlik air base in Turkey, Captain John Kirby told reporters.

"There is an agreement now to fly some of those ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets out of Incirlik at the request of the Turkish government," Kirby said.          

The United States has deployed Predator drones to Turkey from Iraq for surveillance flights. Photo: AFP
The robotic drones, which are unarmed, had been moved to Incirlik in the last couple of weeks, he said.

"It's my understanding they are operating out of Incirlik now," he said.

Violence between rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish army has escalated since the summer, with Turkey launching a major operation last month in retaliation for a PKK attack that killed 24 Turkish soldiers.

Turkey had acknowledged talks with the Pentagon on redeploying the unmanned aircraft to Incirlik.

The mission for the drones would remain the same, with only a change in the air field used by the planes, Kirby said.

"This is to help provide ISR support to the Turkish military to deal with the specific threat posed by the PKK on their southern border."

Turkish Air Force and Army commanders have considered using drones to detect PKK militant bases to make an attack on the targets easier.

In another step designed to bolster the Turkish military in its battle with the PKK, the Pentagon announced last month plans to sell three AH-1 Super Cobra helicopters to Ankara in a deal worth $111 million.

Also, the Obama administration has consulted with Congress an unusual proposal to transfer U.S. Marine Corps attack helicopters to Turkey, U.S. officials said on October 27, as Ankara tries to exact revenge for a major attack by Kurdish PKK separatists. The US-Turkey deal will be worth an estimated $111 million.

Since August 17, Turkish jets repeatedly carried out air strikes against the Kurdish PKK separatist group's bases in Iraqi Kurdistan region, under justification of chasing elements of the anti-Ankara PKK, forcing large numbers of Kurdish citizens of those areas to desert their home villages, including an air raid that killed 7 Kurdish civilians in a village north of Kurdistan’s Sulaimaniyah city on August 21.

Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous Kurdish region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list. 

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency,  AFP | | | Agencies


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