ANKARA (AFP) — Turkish troops entered northern Iraq Thursday night to hunt separatist Kurdish rebels based across the border, the Turkish army said in a statement Friday.
The NTV television news channel said 10,000 troops were involved in the operation.
The army did not give figures but said the incursion followed air and artillery strikes on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) camps across the border between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm (0800 GMT and 1600 GMT) Thursday.
"Following this successful offensive, a cross-border ground operation backed by the Air Force was launched at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT)," said the statement posted on the general staff Internet site.
The statement said the Armed Forces "attach special importance to Iraq's territorial integrity and stability."
The troops, it said, "will return home as soon as possible after acheiving their planned objective of incapacitating members of the terror organization and destroying their infrastructure."
It said the incursion targets only the PKK, which Ankara accuses of using northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks on Turkish territory.
The army will "demonstrate the care required to avoid any adverse effects on civilians and local elements not hostile to the Turkish Forces," it said.
Turkish warplanes, assisted by US intelligence, have conducted several air strikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq since December 16 in addition to a minor cross-border land operation to stop a group of militants from infiltrating Turkey.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community has waged a violent 23-year campaign for self-rule in southeast Turkey. The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives.
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