Turkey launched air and ground assaults on terrorists in Iraq on Wednesday, vowing to take "great revenge" after 24 Turkish soldiers were killed in one of the deadliest PKK attacks in decades.
Turkish officials said about 100 terrists from the PKK mounted simultaneous attacks under cover of darkness on seven remote army outposts in Hakkari province, on Turkey's rugged southeastern border with Iraq.
The PKK, which is fighting from bases in Northern Iraq, confirmed it carried out the attacks, in which it said five terrorists died.
The fighting, in which Turkey said it killed 15 terrorists, threatened wider instability at a time of upheaval in nearby Syria and the imminent withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Turkish security sources said commandos pushed up to 8 km into Iraq in pursuit of terrorists and aircraft struck targets around a PKK camp on the Zab river.
Backed by his NATO allies, who condemned the attacks as an act of terrorism, Turkish President Abdullah Gül said: "No one should forget this: those that inflict this pain on us will endure far greater pain; those that think they will weaken our state with these attacks or think they will bring our state into line, they will see that the revenge for these attacks will be very great and they will endure it many times over."
Twenty-four soldiers were killed and 18 wounded in the surprise attacks, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan said at a televised news conference in which he said wide-ranging operations, including hot pursuit missions, had been launched.
Erdoğan cancelled a foreign trip had been about to start and convened an emergency meeting with the interior and defense ministers, along with intelligence chiefs and top generals. The foreign minister also cancelled a planned visit abroad.
Erdoğan's AK Party government has passed cultural and political reforms favoring ethnic Kurds and aimed at ending a violence fed by Kurdish grievances. Breaking a long-held taboo, Erdoğan's government also held secret talks with Öcalan.
But following escalating violence in which PKK terrorists have killed more than 50 Turkish security personnel since July, the government has taken a harder line.
In the past week, Turkish media have carried reports that Iran had captured the second in command of the PKK, Murat Karayilan, only to release him after Turkish airstrikes on the base where the militant commander had been operating from.
Iran has also been battling terrorists on its border with Iraq, and Kurds in Syria, which had harboured Öcalan until 1998 when Turkey threatened Damascus with war, hold long-standing grievances against Assad.