Turkey military hits Kurdish rebel targets in Iraq

Turkish soldiers observe a minute of silence on June 20, 2012 for colleagues who were killed on June 19 in an attack allegedly carried out by members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
Image caption Turkish soldiers held a minute's silence for their colleagues killed in Tuesday's clashes

The Turkish military says it has carried out strikes against Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq.

The raids by Turkish warplanes "effectively hit" targets belonging to the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the armed forces' website said.

The strikes come a day after more than 30 people died in violence in south-east Turkey.

Eight Turkish soldiers died in a PKK attack, and 26 rebels were killed in Turkish counterattacks, officials said.

There have previously been many military operations similar to Wednesday's strikes in same area, but they have had little visible impact on the PKK's campaign against the Turkish state, the BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul reports.

Several thousand PKK rebels are believed to be based in hideouts in northern Iraq.

The number of clashes between the PKK and the Turkish armed forces has risen in south-east Turkey over the past year, and the PKK has in the past carried out bombings in other parts of the country.

Tough questions

Eight Turkish soldiers were killed and 16 wounded when Kurdish fighters attacked army outposts in Hakkari province, near the border with Iraq and Iran, early on Tuesday.

Armed forces commanders are now facing tough questions over how yet another deadly attack costing the lives of several young soldiers was allowed to happen despite sophisticated intelligence equipment, our correspondent says.

Image caption Questions are being asked about how the attack in Hakkari province was allowed to happen

The military's performance was already under fire over a botched operation last December, relying on aerial intelligence, in which 34 young Kurdish men were bombed and killed, he adds.

They turned out to be ordinary villagers smuggling fuel, an incident which has provoked strong criticism of the government's handling of the Kurdish insurgency.

Mr Erdogan's government has taken an increasingly hard line towards the PKK.

Thousands of Kurdish civilians accused by the authorities of supporting the movement have been arrested, and the army has been authorised to engage insurgents.

At the same time, Mr Erdogan has sought to address some of the Kurdish minority's grievances, recently telling parliament that Kurdish-language lessons may be offered in schools.

Kurdish minorities constitute up to a fifth of Turkey's population and also live in Iraq, Iran and Syria.

The PKK, which is classified as a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US, launched a guerrilla campaign in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in the Kurdish heartland in the south-east of Turkey.

It has now dropped a claim for an independent Kurdish state but says it is fighting for autonomy and the cultural rights of the Kurdish people.