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Turkish Military Says 'Heavy Blow' Inflicted on Kurdish Rebels


The Turkish military says its ground troops conducted a small-scale incursion into northern Iraq Tuesday and that the military has dealt a heavy blow to Kurdish rebels based there.

In a statement on its Web site Tuesday, the military said Turkish troops ventured several kilometers into Iraqi territory. It said soldiers acted after they determined that rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party were preparing to sneak into Turkey before dawn on Tuesday.

The military did not say how many soldiers were involved in the operation or if they have all returned to Turkey. But Iraqi Kurdish officials put the number in the hundreds and say the troops have withdrawn.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States, Turkey and Iraq share a common interest in stopping Kurdish rebel activities. Rice also cautioned the parties against actions that could destabilize northern Iraq.

She made the comments during a visit to Baghdad.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says the Iraqi government understands Turkey's security concerns, but he says unilateral action is unacceptable.

On Sunday, Turkish warplanes bombed several villages in northern Iraq in raids targeting the PKK. Iraqi Kurdish regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani on Tuesday accused Washington of approving the Turkish air strikes because the U.S. military controls Iraq's airspace.

Rice says Turkey took the decision to act against the PKK. Ankara accuses the group of staging deadly attacks in southeastern Turkey from bases in northern Iraq.

Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says the Turkish bombardment in northern Iraq on Sunday has forced 1,800 people to leave their homes.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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