Turkey: Convoy moves to Iraq border(video)
( AP ) - Dozens of military vehicles headed toward the Iraq border and protesters demanded tough action against Kurdish rebels on Monday, a day after 12 soldiers were killed in an ambush. The attack has pushed Turkey closer to a possible incursion into Iraq to target insurgents hiding there.
An AP Television News cameraman saw a convoy of 50 military vehicles, loaded with soldiers and weapons, heading from the southeastern town of Sirnak toward Uludere, closer to the border with Iraq.
It was unclear whether the vehicles were being sent to reinforce troops engaged in fighting with rebels on Turkish soil, or were preparing for possible cross-border action. Tens of thousands of Turkish troops are already deployed in the border area.
The guerrilla ambush that killed a dozen soldiers on Sunday outraged an already frustrated public, with nationalists staging demonstrations and opposition leaders calling for an immediate strike against rebel bases in Iraq, despite appeals for restraint from Iraq, the U.S. and European leaders.
About 2,000 people staged a protest in Istanbul to denounce the attack, calling on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to resign, the private Dogan news agency reported. There were similar protests throughout the country.
Turkey's military said Sunday it had launched an offensive backed by helicopter gunships in retaliation for the attack, shelling rebel positions along the rugged Turkish-Iraqi border. It said 32 rebels had been killed in the offensive so far.
The military convoy included trucks carrying containers full of weapons, around a dozen artillery guns and some 150 soldiers.
The rebel attack occurred four days after Parliament authorized the government to deploy troops across the border in Iraq, amid growing anger in Turkey at perceived U.S. and Iraqi failure to live up to pledges to crack down on the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, based in northern Iraq.
Erdogan said he told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a telephone conversation on Sunday night that Turkey expected "speedy steps from the U.S." in cracking down on Kurdish rebels and that Rice expressed sympathy and asked "for a few days" from him.The United States opposes any unilateral action by Turkey, fearing it could destabilize the most stable part of Iraq.
Sunday's attack raised the death toll of soldiers in PKK attacks in the past two weeks to around 30.
The PKK claimed Sunday it captured a number of Turkish soldiers. Eight soldiers were missing, according to private NTV television. There was no official confirmation of the capture.
Rebels periodically cross the border to stage attacks in their war for autonomy for Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast. More than 30,000 people have died in the conflict that began in 1984.