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Turkey launches incursion into Iraq

Turkey’s military has launched an air and ground operation in Iraqi territory against Kurdish militants. News reports say 15 Kurdish militants have been killed near Iraqi border.

Prime Minister Recep Erdogan confirmed media reports on the ongoing operation, but did not provide any details. He stressed that the military action is being undertaken in conformity with international law.­

Local media say 32 F-16 aircraft are involved in air strikes at Kurd militant bases in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, a ground operation by Turkish commandos is aimed at tracking down Kurdish commanders.

The action is a response to a Kurdish attack which killed 28 soldiers and left 18 others wounded. Wednesday’s night raid was the deadliest in several years. Prime Minister Erdogan has canceled his visit to Kazakhstan after the killings were reported.

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul pledged retribution against those behind the attack. According to Gul, revenge would be “very great.”

“No one should forget this: those that inflict this pain on us will endure far greater pain,” he was quoted by Reuters. “Those that think they will weaken our state with these attacks or think they will bring our state into line, they will see that revenge for these attacks will be very great and they will endure it many times over.”

The Turkish Kurd minority has been a constant problem for Ankara for decades. Kurds seek a national government, which would carve parts of territory from Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and have resorted to violence in pursuit of their goal.

The Kurdish militant force, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), has been in an armed struggle against the Turkish government since the mid-1980s. It is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, as well as Iraq, Iran, Syria, the EU and the US.

The Kurd-controlled territory in northern Iraq is mostly independent from the government in Baghdad. Kurdish militants operating in Turkey can find shelter and supplies there.

Earlier on October 5 Turkey's parliament overwhelmingly voted to extend the government's mandate to order military strikes against Kurdish rebels in neighboring Iraq for one more year.

Turkish military have been given the green light for cross-border pursuit of Kurdish militants in Iraq in 2007. The latest surge of attacks on suspected militant targets started on August 17. This week the Turkish army has been shelling PKK bases in Iraqi territory, Kurdish sources reported.