Turkey to continue military operation in N. Iraq - Gen. Staff

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Turkey's military will continue land operations against Kurdish PKK separatists in northern Iraq, the chief of the General Staff said on Monday.
ANKARA, March 3 (RIA Novosti) - Turkey's military will continue land operations against Kurdish PKK separatists in northern Iraq, the chief of the General Staff said on Monday.

"Land operations will continue as needed," Gen Yasar Buyukanit said. "We taught them [the PKK] a lesson and we have more lessons to give," he added.

The Turkish Army said on Friday it had concluded a major ground offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

Turkey launched a large-scale ground operation targeting militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on February 21, with more than 10,000 troops pushing some 10 kilometers (six miles) into Iraq.

The General Staff also said Turkey had taken the decision to start and end the operation independently, without any outside pressure, and that the Turkish Army killed 240 rebels during the eight-day operation, and lost 27 servicemen.

The General Staff acknowledged in a statement that the PKK had not been eliminated by the operation.

"At the same time, it has been shown to the group that the north of Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists," the statement said.

The General Staff also pledged it would continue monitoring PKK activity in Iraq and would "not allow it to threaten Turkey from this area."

The Turkish parliament gave the government a mandate last October to conduct cross-border operations in northern Iraq against about 3,500 PKK militants based in the region.

The PKK, listed by the U.S., NATO and the EU as a terrorist organization, has been fighting for autonomy status in southeast Turkey for nearly 25 years. The conflict has so far claimed about 40,000 lives.

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