Iraqi Kurds flee Iranian and Turkish bombardment

Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:52am GMT

By Patrick Markey

MANGORAYATI, Iraq (Reuters) - First shelling from neighbouring Iran drove Iraqi Kurdish farmer Haider Rasul from his village, now weeks later bombardments from Turkish warplanes hunting Kurdish rebels stopped him going back.

Along the Iraqi northern Kurdish region's borders with Iran and Turkey, hundreds of refugees have fled since mid-July to small camps to escape attacks by Iraq's neighbours on rebels hiding along the frontier in their long war for Kurdish self-rule.

Iraqi Kurds say they are caught in the middle as Turkey and Iran attack their villages across the border while Ankara and Tehran court their local government with foreign investment that has helped make the Kurdish region the most stable part of Iraq.

Since mid-July, when Iran began shelling, farmers abandoned crops and livestock for small refugee camps on the parched hillsides at the foot of Qandil mountains where Turkish jets now fly low across the frontier to hunt Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels taking refuge in northern Iraq and southern Turkey.

"I came here after the Iranian shelling, and now I have to stay because of the Turkish warplanes," Rasul said at a camp where a dozen tents browned by dust sit along a river bed.

"Some people say Turkey is our friend. We see it different here. Here we see their real policy."

Iran and Turkey have in the past bombed suspected hideouts of the Turkish Kurd PKK and their Iranian Kurdish offshoot PJAK, but Turkey's week-long military campaign has triggered Iraqi Kurdish protests after seven civilians were killed by a Turkish air strike near the town of Rania near the Iranian border.

A Iraqi Kurdish farmer, his wife, three children and two grandchildren were killed when a Turkish jet destroyed their vehicle on a mountain road.   Continued...

Women look at pictures of people killed by shelling by Turkish warplanes in the northern town of Rania in Sulaimaniya province, 260 km northeast of Baghdad August 23, 2011. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani
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