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Sun 27 Apr 2008 01:41 PM

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Turkey confirms attack on Kurdish rebels

Strikes on Friday and Saturday targeted PKK in Zap, Avashin and Khakurk areas of Iraq.

Turkish warplanes and artillery have targeted Kurdish rebels in neighbouring northern Iraq this weekend, the Turkish army said on Saturday.

The strikes, on Friday and Saturday, targeted a group of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in the Zap, Avashin and Khakurk regions who were trying to penetrate the border for attacks on Turkish territory, the general staff said in a statement on its website.

"All planes returned to base safely after successfully executing their mission," it added.

Turkish warplanes have been striking PKK positions in northern Iraq since mid-December.

In February, the army conducted a week-long ground offensive against PKK hideouts in the region, where Ankara estimates more than 2,000 militants take refuge.

RELATED: Turkish troops flood into Iraq as conflict escalates

PKK spokesman Ahmed Danis told newswire AFP that the first bombing began around 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Friday while a second raid lasted for an hour from 6:00 am (0300 GMT) Saturday.

He also claimed that the Turkish military was planning a fresh cross-border military incursion into northern Iraq.

"We have information that new [Turkish] troops are being gathered along the border," Danis said.

"We expect Turkish troops to launch a new incursion into northern Iraq. The PKK is ready to confront any Turkish aggression."

Meanwhile, a Turkish soldier and a village guard - a government-armed Turkish Kurd militiamen fighting the rebels - were killed late Friday in the southeastern Turkish province of Sirnak when they stepped onto a mine believed to have been planted by PKK militants, the army said.

The Turkish government has a one-year parliamentary authorisation, which expires in October, for raids across the border.

The US has backed Turkish military action against the rebels by providing real-time intelligence on PKK movements.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984. The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives.