About 10,000 troops backed by helicopter gunships are hunting down Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerillas nine miles inside Iraqi territory, according to Turkish news reports. Military officials confirmed troops had crossed into northern Iraq on Friday in pursuit of the rebels, but refused to comment further.
There were reports that the troops were operating close to the Iraq-Iran border, which could create tensions between Ankara and Tehran, which Turkey accuses of supporting the PKK.
Turkish troops often pursue PKK rebels into northern Iraq, a Kurdish- ruled enclave outside Baghdad's control. But the timing of the latest incursion is almost certainly linked to a resurgence of the urban terrorism that Turkey witnessed after the capture of the Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan in February.
In the most recent attacks, 14 people were injured when a 19-year-old woman detonated explosives strapped to her body, killing herself, in the southern city of Adana. In Istanbul, one man died and over 20 were injured by a bomb hidden in a dustbin.
Turkish officials blame the PKK for the attacks. Although the guerrillas have not commented on the bombings, they have claimed responsibility for another incident in south-east Turkey, when gunmen shot four people dead in a cafe.
Turkish commentators say there are signs of a split in the PKK between those who back Ocalan's calls for a peaceful settlement with Ankara, and those who want to step up the violence. There are claims that hardline rebel commanders confiscated radios from guerrillas so they would not hear reports of Ocalan's peace calls.
But many here believe both factions would like to see Ocalan hanged - the doves to rid the PKK of a figurehead tainted by years of brutality, the hawks to give the rebel movement a martyr.
From his prison, Ocalan called on the rebels to end the violence. "He said the guerrillas should defend themselves, but that there should be no atrocities in cities and towns," said the lawyer who passed on Ocalan's message.Reuse content