100 die in Kurdish clash fuelled by Turkish incursion in northern Iraq


AN Iraqi Kurdish militia, bolstered by an alliance with Turkish troops, drove fellow Kurds out of a key northern city in a bitter settling of scores at the weekend, an Iraqi opposition group said yesterday. A spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress said the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) had overrun all six offices of Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Erbil and executed prisoners.

"The battles in Erbil resulted in 53 KDP (fighters) killed," the spokesman said. Among the PKK and allied parties, there was a total of 58 dead, 28 of whom were killed after capture, the spokesman, who is based in London, claimed.

The KDP has been aiding thousands of Turkish troops on a crossborder drive against the Turkish Kurd guerrillas in the mountains north of Erbil since last week. Turkey's NATO allies have urged it not to stay too long in northern Iraq, a rugged enclave wrested from President Sad dam Hussein's control in 1991 with Western military help.

Syria put aside rivalry with Baghdad to back Iraqi condemnation of the Turkish incursion. "It is an invasion and an occupation of Arab territory. It is a dangerous matter regardless of our view about any regime in the Arab world," the Syrian Vice President, Mr AbdelHalim Khaddam, was quoted as saying.

Iraq helped the KDP capture Erbil during a separate Kurdish feud last year, in an attack that prompted the United States to launch missile strikes on Iraqi military targets. The Iraqi opposition accused the KDP of an atrocity against Turkish Kurds during the latest clashes in Erbil.

"Five women were captured, raped and then publicly executed by the KDP in full view of the citizens," the Iraqi National Congress spokesman said, citing satellite telephone communications inside Iraq.

A proPKK group in Paris, meanwhile, said Turkish soldiers had joined forces with the KDP in a massacre of some 100 people. But there have been no reports of Turkish troops as far south as Erbil during the crossborder operation. The reports could not be independently verified as all journalists have been barred from the area.

The KDP, led by Mr Massoud Barzani, used 106mm anti tank guns on buildings occupied by the PKK in three days of clashes in Erbil, the opposition spokesman said.