RA (AFP) - Turkish warplanes Tuesday bombed more than 20 Kurdish rebel targets inside Turkey and across the border in northern Iraq, intensifying an onslaught triggered by a deadly militant attack last week.
The jets struck 21 targets belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the Avashin-Basyan region in northern Iraq as well as the Buzul and Iki Yaka mountains near the border in Turkey's southeast, the Turkish army said in a statement.
"The planes returned safely to base after successfully completing their mission," the statement said, without further details.
The raid was the fourth strike against PKK hideouts inside Iraq since the militants killed 17 soldiers in an attack Friday on a military outpost close to the border, in the bloodiest fighting this year.
The Turkish army has said most of its casualties were caused by heavy weapons' fire from northern Iraq as the rebels attempted to take out soldiers stationed on rugged mountains around the outpost in the province of Hakkari. The PKK, on the other hand, claimed that it had killed 62 soldiers and wounded more than 30 while losing only nine rebels.
The casualty numbers are difficult to independently confirm.
The attack sparked anger in Turkey which charges that thousands of PKK rebels enjoy a safe haven in the autonomous Kurdish-run north of Iraq and use the region as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets across the border.
On Sunday, the deputy chief of the Turkish army accused Iraqi Kurds of aiding the rebels and said Ankara expected them to take concrete action.
"We have no support at all from the northern Iraqi administration (against the rebels). Let aside any support, they are providing (the rebels with) infrastructural capabilities such as hospitals and roads," General Hasan Igsiz told reporters here.
Tuesday's raid came a day before parliament was expected to vote on extending by one-year the government's mandate for cross-border military strikes in northern Iraq.
Under a one-year parliamentary authorization obtained last October, the army has carried out several air strikes and a week-long ground incursion against PKK rebel targets, using intelligence passed on by Turkey's close ally, the United States.
Although the army has described the strikes as successful, it has also called for economic and social measures in Turkey's impoverished Kurdish-majority southeast to erode popular support for the group.
Turkey's civilian and military leaders are expected to meet Thursday to discuss fresh measures to curb the militants.