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Turkey Vows 'Great Revenge' For Kurdish Attack On Soldiers

Turkish troops patrol in Hakkari Province in southeastern Turkey.
Turkey has vowed "great revenge" for the killing of two dozen Turkish soldiers by Kurdish militants in the deadliest rebel attack in Turkey in several years.

Turkish officials said about 100 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) carried out simultaneous attacks under cover of darkness on seven remote army outposts in the country's Hakkari Province, near Turkey's southeastern border with Iraq.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara was in "hot pursuit" of the militants and had sent air and ground forces into northern Iraq in a response that he said falls within the "limits of international law."

"According to the latest confirmed information from Cukurca, we lost 24 of our soldiers and 18 soldiers were wounded," Erdogan said. "As of now, wide-reaching operations, including hot-pursuit operations, are continuing in the region within the framework of international law."

Erdogan cancelled a foreign trip to Kazakhstan and convened an emergency meeting with his interior and defense ministers, intelligence chiefs, and top generals.

Turkish security sources said commandos had pushed as far as 8 kilometers into Iraq and aircraft have hit targets near a guerrilla camp.

Speaking to journalists in Istanbul, Turkish President Abdullah Gul vowed revenge for the attacks.

"No one should forget this: those who inflict this pain on us will endure pain many times over," Gul said.

"Those who think they will weaken our state with these attacks or think they will bring our state into line, they will see that the revenge for these attacks will be very big and they will endure it many times over."

Increasing Regional Tensions

The PKK, which is fighting for greater Kurdish rights from bases in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, confirmed that it had carried out the attacks, in which it said five of its guerrillas had died.

In an online statement, the group said: "Our guerrillas carried out simultaneous attacks starting at 1 a.m. (2200 GMT) on regiments in the center of Cukurca district and at Bilican and surrounding military posts.... Nearly 100 soldiers and special forces police have been killed or wounded."

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the attack and said the United States would continue its "strong cooperation with the Turkish government as it works to defeat the terrorist threat from the PKK."

In Brussels, EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was appalled by the "shameful terrorist attacks." She said the EU was ready to help Ankara confront the violence and that the PKK would remain on the bloc's list of terrorist organizations.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he "condemn[ed] in the strongest possible terms the recent attacks."

He added, "There is no justification for such acts of violence...NATO allies stand in solidarity in the fight against terrorism."

Masud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, condemned the raids as a "criminal act" and called for "an immediate end to these attacks."

"This action is first and foremost against the interests of the people of Kurdistan," Barzani said. "Violence and conflict are not a solution."

Kurds live in an area that sprawls across the borders of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.

The attack and Turkey's response could intensify instability throughout the region, as U.S. troops in Iraq prepare to pull out by the end of this year, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues a bloody crackdown on protesters challenging his rule.

Tensions between Turkey and Iran also are on the rise over Turkey's decision to host a NATO antimissile radar.

compiled from agency reports

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