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Turkish military says hit Kurdish rebels in Iraq

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s military said on Sunday it launched overnight air and artillery attacks against Kurdish separatist rebels in northern Iraq overnight an insurgent strike on a military base.

“Targets proven to belong to the PKK terrorist organization in northern Iraq were put under heavy and effective fire by our air force planes with the support of artillery,” the statement said.

The raids in northern Iraq, which began after 1500 GMT on Saturday, targeted members of the Kurdistan Workers Party who had escaped into Iraq from Turkey after attacking a gendarme station Friday night with a force of 150-200 rebels.

Two soldiers were killed in the initial PKK attack and four died later in ensuing clashes with the separatists.

The violence is part of a wider military operation, backed by attack helicopters, tanks and artillery, against the PKK in restive and mountainous southeast Turkey.

“If terrorist violence is not stopped, if they do not put down their weapons, security forces will continue to fight using whatever intelligence it receives,” said Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday.

Sporadic fighting was taking place on Sunday along the Iraqi border of Hakkari province, military sources told Reuters, adding that 20,000 troops had been deployed along the Turkish-Iraqi border with large convoys delivering arms and supplies.

Nearly 100,000 troops have been stationed in the country’s southeast to fight against the PKK.

The military said on its website that it was trying to determine what casualties had been inflicted on the Kurdistan Workers Party, but said one of the targets hit was a press and information centre.

A senior Iraqi border security official said there was one air strike and artillery shelling of the border area in northern Iraq overnight. There were no casualties in the attacks that occurred around 2000 GMT on Saturday, he said.

Over the past week dozens of Turkish F-16 warplanes have launched bombing raids against suspected PKK positions deep inside northern Iraq.

Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of 40,000 people since 1984, when the group took up arms to fight for a Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey. Ankara, like the European Union and the United States, considers the group a terrorist organization.

Editing by Matthew Jones

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