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Death toll of Turkish soldiers rises to 13

By Xinhua

Ankara : The death toll of Turkish soldiers has risen to 13 in an attack staged by members of the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey near the Iraqi border, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported on Sunday.

The report said that a group of PKK members attacked a troop unit of the Turkish security forces with heavy weapons in Daglica region of Yuksekove in Hakkari province at small hours on Sunday, leaving 13 soldiers killed and 15 others injured.

An initial report put the death toll at nine.

The wounded soldiers were taken to a military hospital for treatment by helicopter, Anatolia said, adding that operations in pursuit of the PKK militants who fled the scene after the attack are still underway.

It was the first major attack since the Turkish parliament approved on Wednesday a motion submitted by the government for cross-border military operations targeting the PKK based in northern Iraq.

The passage of the motion paved way for possible military actions into northern Iraq to pursue the PKK rebels during a one-year period.

However, the motion was seen as a military threat by the Iraqi government, which strongly opposed it and called on the Turkish government not to put it into action.

The PKK has increased its attacks on government troops in southeastern Turkey, which led to rising Turkish demands for an incursion into northern Iraq to crush the rebels based there.

The group, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, launched an armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in the mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking decades of strife that has claimed more than 30,000 lives.