"Operations against the separatist terrorist organisation will continue without respite... in order to ensure peace and security for our citizens in the region," a statement from the military said on Tuesday.

 

The 13 deaths and another attack later that killed 12 soldiers prompted calls in Turkey for a military incursion against PKK bases in northern Iraq.

 

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On Tuesday, a Turkish soldier was killed and six wounded when a mortar shell exploded in a military zone in the neighbouring Hakkari province, state news agency Anatolian reported.

 

Turkey has massed troops along the border with Iraq saying that thousands of PKK fighters were operating from bases across the border.

 

Ankara blames the PKK, which is seeking a separate Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey, for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since it began its armed struggle in 1984.

 

On Saturday, the Turkish military said it fired on a group of about 50 to 60 PKK rebels inside Iraqi territory, inflicting "significant losses".

 

Iraqi Kurdish authorities denied claims of Turkish incursions while the PKK acknowledged the attacks but said it suffered no casualties.

 

Over the weekend Abdullah Gul, Turkey's president, reasserted what he said was his country's "readiness and right" to intervene in northern Iraq.

 

Last week, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, said the cabinet had authorised the armed forces to conduct a cross-border operation.

 

The US and Iraq are anxious to avert a major Turkish incursion into northern Iraq for fear of destabilising the calmest region in the country.

 

Ankara has made many threats of military action but, under heavy US pressure, has so far shown restraint.