The Turkish military said Saturday that it fired on a group of between 50 and 60 Kurdish rebels inside Iraqi territory, inflicting "significant losses."
The military said on its Web site that the rebels were detected following intelligence work and that military operations in "the region" would continue if necessary. It did not say whether Turkish troops crossed into Iraq as part of the operation.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that the government had granted authorization to its military to begin a cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq at any time.
"There was an intensified operation against the mentioned terrorists using fire support vehicles," the military statement said. "It is observed through technical means that the terrorist group suffered significant losses as a result of the operation."
The statement also said: "If necessary, there will be other operations in the region, using other means."
Erdogan's announcement on Friday followed communication in recent weeks between the military and the government concerning the scope of a possible operation against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. A top general had said the military was awaiting a government directive on how to proceed against the group, which has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984.
Parliament voted Oct. 17 to authorize the government to order a cross-border operation against the PKK, which seeks autonomy for the Kurdish minority in southeastern Turkey.
Turkey has massed tens of thousands of Turkish troops along the border with Iraq amid a series of attacks by Kurdish insurgents. But some military officials have said Turkey is more likely to stage air strikes and raids by special forces instead of a large-scale occupation of Iraqi territory that could carry greater military and political risks.
The United States and Iraq urged Turkey to avoid a major operation against PKK bases in northern Iraq, fearing such an operation would destabilize what has been the calmest region in the country. In a Nov. 5 meeting with Erdogan, President Bush promised to share intelligence on the PKK with the Turkish government.
In Other Developments: As of Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, at least 3,881 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes eight military civilians. At least 3,161 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers. The AP count is two higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EST. In addition, the British military has reported 173 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, South Korea, one death each. Lawmakers from the Iraqi parliament's largest Sunni Arab bloc walked out of Saturday's session to protest what they called the house arrest of their leader, Adnan al-Dulaimi, following the discovery of a car bomb near his compound. Al-Dulaimi, a harsh critic of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told lawmakers that he was prevented by security forces from leaving his house in western Baghdad to come to parliament, after the keys to an explosives-laden vehicle were found on one of his bodyguards. Al-Dulaimi's son, Maki Adnan al-Dulaimi, and about 30 other people also were arrested Friday. A raid carried out by suspected al Qaeda militants north of Baghdad has left more than a dozen Shiite villagers dead. Police say the attack this morning began with a barrage of mortar fire. Then as many as 60 militants stormed the village, shooting people and burning houses. One Iraqi police officer says at least 13 people were killed, including three children and two women. Fourteen other villagers were wounded. The villagers apparently fought back, killing three of the militants. In southern Iraq, police captured a suspect believed responsible for supplying and coordinating roadside bomb attacks against American and Iraqi troops, the U.S. military said Saturday. The American statement said the suspect, detained Friday in Nasiriyah, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, had traveled repeatedly to Iran and was found with Iranian weapons
and munitions, including three new Iranian-made rockets and boosters, a launcher and AK-47 assault rifles and ammunition. Also in Iraq's south, gunmen abducted the dean of a technical institute in Amarah, a Shiite militia stronghold about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, leaving behind his car and driver, according to an aide. Raid al-Saaiy was taken away by gunmen in a pickup truck, said the aide, Ahmed Ajeel. Although it was not immediately clear why al-Saaiy was targeted, Iraqi academics have fallen victim to Iraq's religious extremists and other violent groups. As of Nov. 1, 336 Iraqi academics were assassinated, according to an Associated Press count, and thousands had fled. On Friday five volunteer members of a local guard group known as the Awakening Council were killed in various incidents. In one village, a volunteer was killed by a suicide bomber who blew himself up when members of the group cornered him in his house.