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Turks hit Kurdish rebels in southeast

From Reuters

Helicopter gunships fired rockets and bombed Kurdish rebel positions Monday in southeastern Turkey near the Iraqi border, witnesses said.

Turkey has massed as many as 100,000 troops along the border, backed by tanks, artillery and aircraft, in readiness for a possible incursion to hunt down 3,000 guerrillas who use the region as a base.

The White House said it was pressing Turkey and Iraq to keep up talks aimed at averting a major cross-border operation.

Ground troops were reinforcing Monday’s airstrike to clear suspected Kurdistan Workers Party hide-outs in Sirnak province.

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Two soldiers were killed during the Sirnak operation, army sources said. Another soldier was killed by a land mine in Tunceli province, far from the border.

On Sunday, army sources said 20 guerrillas had been killed in the Tunceli campaign, which involved 8,000 soldiers.

In Ankara, meanwhile, warplanes swooped, tanks rolled and troops marched past President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and senior generals in a display of military might designed to emphasize Turkish unity and resolve.

Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and business hub, also staged a military parade, and people waved flags and clapped loudly as tanks drove past. Many people carried pictures of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded modern Turkey in 1923.

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