Turkish Troops Stage Incursion Into Iraq

Turkish government forces stage an incursion into northern Iraq after a cross border raid by Kurdish guerrillas that left more than 20 Turkish soldiers dead.

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Turkish troops are in what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is calling hot pursuit. They're chasing Kurdish rebels who ambushed and killed Turkish soldiers earlier today along Turkey's border with Iraq. Turkish and Iraqi media are reporting that these troops have crossed into Iraq to retaliate against the militants.

NPR's Kelly McEvers has the story from Baghdad.

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: The fighting started overnight when Kurdish rebels, who've long demanded an autonomous zone in southeastern Turkey, raided Turkish military bases on the Iraqi-Turkish border, killing at least 24 soldiers. Turkey responded by sending ground troops, fighter jets and helicopters after the rebels, known as the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: In a news conference, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said his forces would, quote, "end the terror." Another Turkish official publicly vowed to take revenge.

The Kurdish raid was the most deadly attack by the PKK in nearly two decades. The conflict that began in 1984 has left tens of thousands dead. The Turkish government and Kurdish separatists have been going back and forth between attempts at reconciliation and violence in the past few years. The most recent spate of attacks escalated over the summer. One roadside bomb this week killed policemen, civilians and a four-year-old girl.

President Obama condemned today's raid and said the U.S. will continue to support Turkey in its efforts to defeat what he called the terrorist threat of the PKK. This is not the first time the Turkish military has retaliated against Kurdish separatist bases in northern Iraq. But analysts warned that going after these bases has not stopped the group in the past.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Baghdad.

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