Iraqi Kurdistan leadership: PKK should leave

‘The PKK must keep the battlefield away from Kurdistan region,' says Massoud Barzani

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Kurdish rebels of the PKK should move out of Iraqi Kurdistan to prevent Turkish air strikes against them from causing civilian casualties, the region’s leadership said on Saturday.

“The PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) must keep the battlefield away from the Kurdistan region in order for civilians not to become victims of this war,” the office of the region's president Massud Barzani said in a statement.

He also condemned Turkey’s bombardment of Zargala village which he said had left a number of civilians dead a day earlier, and called for all sides to return to the peace process.

“We condemn this bombardment that led to the martyrdom of people from the Kurdistan region and call on Turkey not to bombard civilians again,” he said.

Turkey has repeatedly attacked PKK camps in northern Iraq in the past week in what it says is a response to a series of targeted killings of police officers and soldiers that it has blamed on the Kurdish militant group.

However, the strikes were the first since a peace process with the Kurds was launched in 2012.

Turkey probes claims

Sedar Sitar, an Iraq-based PKK activist, told The Associated Press that Turkish strikes destroyed at least six homes in the town of Zargel early Saturday, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 12.

Turkey on Saturday said it has opened an investigation into claims that several civilians were killed in an airstrike against PKK militants in northern Iraq.

“An investigation has been initiated into the allegations,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that the reports had been received “with sorrow.”

“All the allegations that have been brought forward will be investigated fully,” it added, saying a joint study would be conducted with the regional authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan.

On Friday, the Kurdish regional government accused the PKK of attacking an oil pipeline in northern Iraq. The Kurdish government had been selling oil directly to Turkey in a move that sparked tensions between the regional government in Irbil and the federal government in Baghdad. Those sales were stopped as part of a deal with Baghdad earlier this year, though the Kurdish government has threatened to resume sales to the international market in recent weeks.

Tensions between Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party and the PKK of Abdullah Ocalan in Turkey date back decades.

The two groups were opponents in a 1990s civil war, which ended in an accord that allowed PKK fighters to remain in Iraqi Kurdish territory. The U.S. State Department regards the PKK as a terrorist organization because of its history of violence in Turkey.

(With agencies)