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Turkey: 24 Rebels, 5 Troops Killied In N. Iraq Op.

Turkey: 24 rebels, 5 Troops Killied in Northern Iraq Offensive

Turkey says five of its troops and 24 Kurdish rebels have been killed since a Turkish ground offensive into northern Iraq began late Thursday.

Ankara says the operation started following air and and artillery strikes against suspected positions of the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in Iraq. Military officials say they also believe another 20 militants were killed by artillery fire and helicopter gunships.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador Friday to protest the military incursion into northern Iraq.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says Washington has urged Turkey to strictly limit military operations to target only rebels.

European Union officials urged Turkey to refrain from taking any "disproportionate military action."

In a statement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for Turkey to show restraint, and called on the nation to respect its border with Iraq.

The office of Turkish President Abdullah Gul said he spoke with his Iraqi counterpart, Jalal Talabani, late Thursday to inform the Iraqis about the ground operation and its objectives.

It is not clear how many troops are involved in the operation, but Turkish television reports put the figure in the thousands.

In recent months, Turkey has carried out air strikes and small-scale cross-border operations against what Ankara says are PKK strongholds in the mountainous border region of northern Iraq.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984. That violence has killed more than 30,000 people.

ENDS

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