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Turkish raid strains U.S.-Kurd ties

American support in strike against PKK rebels threatens relations with key Iraqi allies.

Prepared: Two farmers from the village of Sirya, inIraq's Kurdish north, claim to be former Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. They say they're ready to fight if Turks cross into their area.

Sam Dagher

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Peshmerga Gen. Muhammad Mohsen took down his American flag, folded it up, and placed it in his office corner Sunday, reflecting the growing anger in Iraq's Kurdish north with US support for Turkey's campaign against separatist rebels operating in the region.

The intermittent offensive against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) reached a crescendo Thursday when ground troops crossed into Iraq in a campaign involving nearly 8,000 soldiers. Officials here say it is Turkey's most significant strike against the rebels in more than 10 years.

Frustration over the Turkish incursion cuts across the spectrum. Many average Iraqi Kurds sympathize with the PKK rebels' aim to form an independent Kurdistan and officials say Turkey's real goal is to destabilize its semiautonomous government, the leaders of which have long been American allies.

"We think the United States is making a big mistake," says General Mohsen, who once led Iraqi Kurdish fighters alongside US forces when they entered the northern city of Mosul during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

On Sunday, eight Turkish soldiers were killed, bringing the death toll among the Turks to 15. Turkey said it killed 112 PKK rebels, which has been denied by a rebel spokesman quoted by Reuters. He said that 47 Turkish soldiers and only two rebels were killed.

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