A decision by Nouri al-Maliki to close the offices of the Kurdistan Workers' Party to prevent Turkish incursion was met with deep dissatisfaction by Kurds, whose spokesman blasted Iraq's prime minister Wednesday for denouncing his group as a terrorist organization.
About 100 red-bereted members of the Kurdish regional defense forces, meanwhile, were headed for a camp near the border city of Dahuk, 430 kilometers (260 miles) northwest of Baghdad.
One of them, who would only identify himself as Capt. Ziad, said his troops had been mobilized from Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
"We want to prevent the conflict in Turkey from coming across the border," he said.
The developments came as a Turkish government official said Turkish artillery units have shelled suspected Kurdish rebel positions across the border in Iraq as recently as Tuesday night after a rebel ambush over the weekend that killed 12 Turkish soldiers and left eight missing.
Abdul-Rahman al-Chadarchi, a spokesman for the rebel group known as the PKK, told The Associated Press by telephone that there were no Turkish attacks on PKK positions Sunday or Monday, but that they came under a helicopter assault that began Tuesday and continued Wednesday near Besta in the Chernak Mountain region inside Turkey.
The Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, denied an earlier report of Turkish airstrikes against northern Iraq, and only confirmed shelling of rebel positions by artillery units. Iraqi Kurdish officials also confirmed Turkish shelling along the border over the weekend.
Al-Chadarchi said the rebels suffered no casualties, calling Turkish claims to the contrary "lies and Turkish propaganda." He said he didn't know if they killed or wounded any Turks.
Al-Chadarchi also criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
"It's shameful for al-Maliki to call us terrorists while at the same time maintaining that Iraq is a democracy. He's giving in to pressure from the Turkish regime," the rebel spokesman said.
Turkey, which has moved troops to the Iraq border, warned Iraq and Western allies on Tuesday that a Turkish incursion is imminent unless the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad takes action, and said there would be no cease-fire with the separatist fighters.
Al-Maliki did not give the location of the PKK offices and his statement was counter to repeated assertions by Iraqi officials in recent days that the PKK's presence in Iraq was restricted to inaccessible parts of northern Iraq that could not be reached by authorities. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also has said Iraq doesn't have sufficient forces to root out the rebels.
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