12 Turkish troops killed as pressure on government growing
Kurdish militants ambushed a military unit near Turkey's border with Iraq early Sunday, killing 12 troops and increasing pressure on the Turkish government to stage attacks against camps in Iraq. The pro-Kurdish Firat news agency, based in Belgium, later said Kurdish militants also took several Turkish troops hostage.
The soldiers died when militants blew up a bridge as a 12-vehicle military convoy was crossing it, CNN-Turk television said. The Turkish military stated it killed 23 guerrillas in a counteroffensive, and Iraq reported Turkish shelling toward Kurdish villages in the border area in northern Iraq.
Separately, 14 people were wounded when a bomb went off as a minibus passed near the area where the troops were killed, CNN-Turk said. "Our anger, our hatred is great," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on national television. According to him, the government will hold an emergency meeting later Sunday and will take "an approach that is calm, far from agitation and based on common sense."
The attack came four days after Turkey's Parliament overwhelmingly passed a motion authorizing its military to launch an offensive into northern Iraq against hideouts of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Sunday's death toll raises the number of soldiers killed in PKK attacks in the past two weeks to around 30.
Some 15 Turkish shells hit Iraqi territory starting at about 7 a.m. Sunday, said Col. Hussein Rashid of the Iraqi border guard forces. The bombardment was concentrated in the Mateen mountain range in the Amadiyah area, 20 miles from the border. Rashid said the villages were deserted because of the border tension.