Turkish soldiers killed 20 Kurdish guerrillas yesterday in a major military operation against separatist rebels in eastern Turkey, army sources said.
The operation involving 8,000 troops backed up from the air was launched in the central-eastern province of Tunceli. The sources gave no word on army casualties.
With Ankara also focused on what it sees as a significant threat from Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq, the Turkish foreign minister said a military solution was still on the table to tackle rebels who use Iraq's mountainous north as a stronghold to strike into Turkey.
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has killed about 40 people in the past month - 12 soldiers were killed in the latest major attack and the group said it took eight prisoners.
In Istanbul, three people were slightly injured by an explosion at a demonstration being held to protest against escalating PKK violence.
As Ankara comes under pressure to deal with the PKK, Turkish-Iraqi talks aimed at preventing a cross-border operation into northern Iraq collapsed late on Friday after Ankara rejected Iraqi proposals as insufficient.
Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops, backed by fighters, helicopter gunships and tanks on the border for a possible offensive against about 3,000 rebels using Iraq as a base from which to carry out attacks in Turkey.
The army sent more equipment to the border yesterday although army sources said preparations were almost complete.
Alongside diplomatic initiatives, Turkey has used tough rhetoric seen as an attempt to press the United States and Iraq into action. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday a military operation could be carried out whenever it was needed.
"For example, we can use or continue to use diplomatic means, or resort to military means. All of these are on the table, so to speak," Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said in translated comments on Iran's Press TV television channel.
Source: China Daily/Agencies