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Turkey hardens resolve against Kurdish rebels

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has vowed to crush Kurdish rebels after attacks killed 11 Turkish soldiers. Clashes between the two sides have escalated sharply.

Border crossing between Turkey and Iraq

The attack hit an army unit on the Turkey-Iraq border

After a series of air raids targeting by Turkish fighter jets on rebel hideouts of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) in northern Iraq, the group has threatened to launch attack on cities across Turkey.

"We will take our operations to all Turkish cities if the government continues its attacks against us," PKK spokesman Ahmed Denis told AFP news agency on Saturday.

"Turkey wants to take us towards war," he said. "She is not sincere in dealing with the Kurdish issue and doesn't want to deal with this issue peacefully."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed that the threats would have no effect on his country's determination to fight the PKK.

"Our fight will continue until the terrorist organization has been annihilated," said Erdogan.

According to Turkey's military headquarters, the PKK militants touched off the fighting with an attack on an army unit near the southeastern border with Iraq. The PKK claimed responsibility for the early morning raid on a military post near the city of Semdinli, which killed eight Turkish soldiers. Twelve rebels were killed and a further 14 injured in the clash.

In response, the Turkish Air Force "struck targets identified in the northern region of Iraq," a statement on the military's website said.

Two Turkish soldiers were also killed after stepping on a landmine in Hakkari.

At Sunday's funeral services for the Turkish soldiers, Erdogan said the rebels would never win and that they would "drown in their own blood."

End of ceasefire

The Turkish military warned on Friday that the PKK could intensify its operations over the summer, when warmer weather brings out more PKK guerrillas from the mountains of northern Iraq. Several thousand rebels are based there.

Turkish Kurd women protesting with placards

Turkish Kurds demonstrate in support of Kurdish rebels in October 2009

The PKK said this month that they had scrapped a year-old unilateral ceasefire and resumed attacks against Turkish forces because of military operations against PKK targets in northern Iraq.

The ceasefire started as the Turkish government worked on plans to boost Kurdish rights under a reform package designed to end the conflict. However, the reform process has faltered.

The rebel group has been branded as terrorists by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. They say they want greater rights and autonomy for Turkey's estimated 12 to 15 million Kurds. The PKK also demand an ethnic homeland for Kurds in Turkey's southeast.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the insurgency against the Turkish state since the PKK campaign was launched in 1984.

Author: Nigel Tandy, Catherine Bolsover (Reuters/AFP/dpa)
Editor: Ian Johnson

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