World Bulletin/News Desk
Turkish soldiers have killed 26 Kurdish militants in two days in an offensive involving over 2,000 troops, as well as F-16 fighter planes operating on both sides of the Turkey-Iraq border, security sources said on Friday.
The operation against separatists from the 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.
This summer has been one of the bloodiest in Turkey since the PKK took up arms against the state in 1984 with the aim of carving out a Kurdish state.
Turkish security sources told Reuters 26 militants had been killed since the start of the offensive.
"The intense operation is continuing," the sources said.
The operation has largely focused on Kato mountain, a remote area of Sirnak, but Turkish security sources as well as Iraqi residents said planes had bombed areas inside northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
A Reuters witness said he had seen several F-16 planes 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.
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 fighters 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.
Ankara has linked the surge in violence to 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.
Ahmet Davutoglu tells party faithful in Ankara that Turkey has become a shelter for Syrians
Several media organs reported that 150,000 troops from Saudi Arabia would soon be dispatched to Syria through Turkish borders
Deputy prime minister Kurtulmus warns of the worst case scenario
Turkish premier Davutoglu condemns attacks on civilians amid peace talks
'No one should assume that just because Turkey is taking in all the refugees that it should be expected to shoulder the refugee issue alone,' Turkish PM warns
Turkish Prime Minister says Turkey and Germany are to work together for NATO involvement in curbing refugee flow
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus has said Turkey did not have option to say 'no' to refugees fleeing from bombardments in Syria and Iraq
'We are not in a position to tell them not to come. If we do, we would be abandoning them to their deaths,' says deputy PM
'If they reached our door and have no other choice, if necessary, we have to and will let our brothers in,' President Erdogan says
Erdogan says western powers 'ignore' terrorist actions perpetrated by armed wing of PKK’s Syrian affiliate
Iraqi citizens will no longer be able to enter Turkey with a sticker visa, and instead will need to apply for an electronic or paper visa
'I find this Russian statement laughable... rather it is Russia that is currently engaged in an invasion of Syria,' Turkish president says
Plan includes 'comprehensive democratic reform', greater powers for local administrations and economic measures
Erdogan says Syrians will continue to flee country unless Russian and regime airstrikes cease
Leaders of governments, NGOs and members of civil society met in London on Thursday to raise funds for those affected by crisis in Syria
MPs from all parties meet to reform Turkey’s military-era constitution