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Turkey Vows to Defeat Kurdish Rebels at Any Cost

  • VOA News

Turkey has vowed to defeat Kurdish rebels who are launching cross-border attacks from northern Iraq, after the rebels killed at least 12 soldiers in an ambush Sunday in southeastern Turkey.

A government statement issued Sunday says that Turkey will pay "whatever price" is necessary to protect its rights and citizens.

The warning followed emergency talks between President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and military leaders.

Earlier Sunday, Turkey's military said Kurdish rebels ambushed an army unit (near the town of Yuksekova in Hakkari province,) near the Iraqi border. Turkey's defense minister, Vecdi Gonul, says at least 12 soldiers were killed.

The military says Turkish forces then launched a counteroffensive, killing 32 Kurdish rebels.

Also Sunday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, called for rebels to adopt peaceful methods or leave Iraqi Kurdistan.

During a press conference with the president, the leader of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, said his people will defend themselves if attacked by foreign forces.

Iraq's parliament on Sunday condemned the use of force, and it also called on Baghdad to stop attacks by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

President Bush has condemned the PKK attack.

A spokesman for the US State Department , Sean McCormack says the United States will continue to work with Turkey and Iraq against the PKK, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.

Kurdish rebels dispute the government's casualty figures, claiming more soldiers and fewer rebels died. The PKK says rebels captured several soldiers. Defense Minister Gonul says no Turkish soldiers were taken hostage.

Also, a bomb blast wounded at least 17 people on a minibus near the area where the Turkish soldiers were killed in southeastern Turkey.

Earlier, Iraqi officials reported shelling from Turkish forces towards villages in northern Iraq. No casualties were reported.

Turks staged protests in the capital and several other cities in response to Sunday's attacks.

Turkey's government won parliamentary approval Wednesday for military raids into northern Iraq to hunt for the rebels, who Ankara blames for other recent deadly attacks in southern Turkey. In Washington, local Kurds demonstrated against a threatened incursion by Turkey into northern Iraq.

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