World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkish soldiers have killed 18 PKK militants in two days in an offensive involving over 2,000 troops, as well as by F-16 fighter jets operating on both sides of the Turkey-Iraq border, security sources said on Friday.
The operation against militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) began on Wednesday night in Sirnak, a southeasterly province bordering Iraq and Syria and the site of frequent clashes between militants and Turkish troops.
"Eighteen PKK members have been killed. The intense operation is continuing," security sources told Reuters.
The operation has largely focused on Kato mountain, a remote area in Sirnak, but Turkish security sources as well as Iraqi residents said warplanes had bombed areas inside northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
A Reuters witness said he had seen several F-16 jets take off from Diyarbakir air base on Thursday night and Friday morning. Diyarbakir is the main city in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast.
There were no reports that Turkish ground troops had crossed the border into northern Iraq, although Turkey has sent soldiers into the region in the past, and still has some 1,000 troops based there under an agreement with Iraq dating from the 1990s.
PKK ATTACKS ON THE RISE
Turkey has stepped up air operations on suspected PKK militants in northern Iraq over the past year after an increase in PKK attacks, and the raids have fuelled tension between Ankara and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Security sources said one Turkish soldier had been killed during clashes with PKK militants at the start of the offensive on Wednesday night.
On Sunday, PKK militants killed 10 members of Turkey's security services in simultaneous attacks on four state and security installations in Sirnak.
More than 40,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
In the 15 months to August, some 800 people were killed, including about 500 PKK fighters, more than 200 security personnel and about 85 civilians, according to estimates by the International Crisis Group think-tank.
Ankara has linked the upsurge on the unrest in neighbouring Syria and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has accused Syria's President Bashar al-Assad of arming the PKK militants.
Turkey has raised the possibility of military intervention in Syria if the PKK were to launch attacks from Syrian soil. On Wednesday, the military conducted a major military exercise on the Syrian border, a clear warning to Damascus.
Turkish parliament's deputy speaker delayed in row over travel documents at Cologne airport this week
'We can say a new era in our relations has started,' Yildirim says during first visit to Moscow as premier
Ankara public prosecutor seeks over 2 years in prison for HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtas
Deputy prime minister also reveals more than 220,000 Syrian adults taking vocational training in refugee centers
Mustafa Kemal Okem to assume duties on Dec. 12 after presenting his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin
Turkish lawmakers to explain Ankara's post-coup policies, foreign affairs
Greek court approves extradition of 3 Turkish soldiers linked to July 15 coup plot
Turkish lira gains advantage against the dollar for the first time since Dec. 1
Turkish Red Crescent president says the EU financed humanitarian aid is expected to reach a million refugees
'Proposal for the constitutional amendment will be submitted to parliament this week,' says Yıldırım
An operation is conducted in Istanbul's Yıldız Technical University against academicians who have alleged links with the coupist FETO terror organization
After his meeting with Dunford, Gen. Akar also visited Turkish troops at the base with the commander of Turkish land forces, Salih Zeki Çolak.
Siirt province anti-terror branch performs operation at domicile
President Erdogan says manufacturing more advanced satellites than Gokturk 1 is Turkey's next target