( dpa ) - Turkish troops crossed into Iraq on Thursday evening in an attempt to destroy Kurdish rebel bases in the mountainous region, with Turkish television reporting that the operation involved 10,000 troops.
Turkish soldiers crossed the border at around 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) Thursday night following a day of air and artillery attacks on suspected Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) targets in Iraq, the General Staff announced in a statement posted on its official website.
The statement said the operation would be limited and that the troops would return to Turkey in the "shortest time possible."
The NTV private television station reported that 10,000 had crossed the border.
"This operation's target is the PKK terrorist organization. It is a continuity of the air operations that have been carried out. Civilians and local elements who do not show hostility to Turkish forces will not be negatively affected by this operation," the statement said.
The military statement said the aim of the operation was to stop the PKK from using mountainous northern Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks on Turkey. The General Staff has previously estimated that there are around 4,000 to 5,000 PKK guerrillas based in northern Iraq.
More than 32,000 people have been killed since 1984 when the PKK launched its fight for independence or autonomy for the mainly Kurdish-populated south-east of Turkey.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.