turkish troops 224 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Turkish troops on Sunday killed 23 Kurdish rebels in an offensive following a rebel attack that killed at least 12 soldiers, the military said.
A statement from the military said it also shelled 63 suspected rebel targets, but did not specify whether the targets were inside Turkey or across the border, in northern Iraq, although Private NTV television said the targets were located in Iraq. The attack on the soldiers has increased pressure on the Turkish government to stage attacks against guerrilla camps in Iraq.
Earlier Sunday, Kurdish rebels ambushed a military unit near Turkey's border with Iraq, killing at least 12 soldiers and increasing pressure on the Turkish government to stage attacks against guerrilla camps in Iraq.
The soldiers died when rebels blew up a bridge as a 12-vehicle military convoy was crossing it, CNN-Turk television said. Hours later, Iraq said, Turkish forces fired about 15 artillery shells toward Kurdish villages in the border area in northern Iraq, but there were no casualties.
In a separate incident, 14 people were wounded when a bomb exploded as a minibus passed near the area where the soldiers were killed, CNN-Turk said.
"Our anger, our hatred is great," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on national television. He said the government would hold an emergency meeting later Sunday and would take "an approach that is calm, far from agitation and based on common sense."
The attack came four days after Turkey's Parliament overwhelmingly passed a motion allowing its military to launch an offensive into northern Iraq against hideouts of the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
Turkish leaders have said that the motion did not mean that Turkey would immediately order a cross-border offensive, but the latest attack was likely to increase calls by a frustrated public for the military to stage an incursion. Previous offensives by Turkey in Iraq have blunted rebel strength, but failed to eradicate the group.
"These latest developments, I believe, will make us implement sharper measures," Labor Minister Faruk Celik said.
The attack occurred just after midnight, during a military offensive against rebels near the Turkish village of Daglica, in Hakkari province, where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran meet. Hakkari is east of neighboring Sirnak province, another area of conflict between the PKK and the Turkish military.
Erdogan said 12 soldiers died. The state-run Anatolia news agency said 13 died and 15 were wounded. Private NTV television put the death toll at 16. The military and the local governor's office declined to comment.
NTV said the fighting occurred five kilometers from the border with Iraq. The Turkish military reinforced troops in the region and launched an operation to catch the rebels who attacked the military unit. There were no reports that the troops had crossed into Iraq.
The Turkish shelling of Iraqi territory started at about 7 a.m. Sunday and was concentrated in the Mateen mountain range in the Amadiyah area, 30 kilometers from the border, said Col. Hussein Rashid of the Iraqi border guard forces.
Rashid said the villages were deserted because of the border tension.
The Iraqi region of Amadiyah is roughly opposite the Turkish town of Cukurca, in Hakkari province. Rebels are active near Cukurca, 50 kilometers from the location where the soldiers died Sunday.
Sunday's death toll raises the number of soldiers killed in PKK attacks in the past two weeks to around 30.
On Saturday, Erdogan said Turkey expected the United States to take action against the PKK but would take its own measures if it saw no results in the fight.