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State TV: 32 rebels killed in clashes with soldiers in southeast Turkey
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) ' Turkish troops killed 32 Kurdish rebels as it besieged them in a valley near the Iraqi border, state-run television reported Saturday, as hundreds of troops also pursued Kurdish fighters within northern Iraq.
The rebels were killed in clashes in the Kazan Valley region, in Turkey's Hakkari province that borders Iraq, TRT television reported, citing unnamed regional officials. There was no immediate confirmation of the deaths from the rebels.
Turkey on Wednesday launched massive anti-rebel offensives involving some 10,000 troops both in southeastern Turkey and across the border in Iraq. The military operations began hours after 24 soldiers were killed by the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the deadliest one-day toll against the military since the 1990s.
Turkey's conflict with the Kurdish rebels has killed tens of thousands of people since the insurgents took up arms to fight for autonomy in the country's Kurdish-dominated southeast in 1984.
The military said Friday its air and ground offensives were mostly concentrated within Turkey, in Hakkari, while operations were also underway "in a few areas" in northern Iraq.
The military has not revealed the number of soldiers that have crossed into Iraq. But the Haber Turk newspaper reported Saturday that 1,500 elite troops were involved in the ground operation against rebel hideouts in northern Iraq. The Vatan newspaper put the figure at 2,000.
The Turkish troops had penetrated 3 miles (5 kilometers) into Iraq territory, Haber Turk said, while military helicopters were ferrying elite troops in and out of other areas for "spot operations" against PKK rebels. Warplanes and drones were providing air support for the gunbattles.
The paper said the offensive was targeting seven suspected PKK bases along the Iraqi-Turkish border, where some 2,000 rebels are believed to be hiding.
The military said the operation includes commandos, special forces and paramilitary special forces ' elite forces trained in guerrilla warfare. They are being reinforced by F-16 and F-4 warplanes, Super Cobra helicopter gunships and surveillance drones.