"The Turkish armed forces have an unshakeable determination to fight terrorism and it is an incontrovertible reality that we will respond to these kind of attacks," the statement said, referring to a series of Kurdish rebel strikes against civilian and military targets in Turkey.

The army and government have been increasingly exasperated by a series of deadly attacks on civilian and military targets in Turkey conducted by members of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) operating out of mainly Kurdish Northern Iraq.

Public pressure

On Monday, seven paramilitary police were killed when PKK rebels attacked their headquarters in Tunceli province in eastern Turkey in the deadliest single strike in about a year.

In May, eight people were killed when a suicide bomber the authorities said was a PKK supporter struck a shopping mall in Ankara, Turkey's normally secure capital.

"The time has come to see the real nature of these incidents," said the General Staff statement, attacking unspecified individuals and organisations it said used notions of democracy and freedom as a "screen" to defend terrorism.

The comments appeared especially aimed at the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join.

Analysts say a full-blown army incursion into Northern Iraq is still unlikely, given the political and diplomatic as well as security risks, but as elections loom in July both the military and the government are under public pressure to get tough.