Helicopter gunships bombed Kurdish rebel positions in southeast Turkey on Monday and the government flexed its military muscle with big national day parades and flypasts in major cities.
Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops, backed by tanks, artillery, warplanes and combat helicopters, along the Iraqi border in readiness for a possible large-scale 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.
Witnesses said they saw helicopters firing rockets and bombing suspected Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) positions in the mountains in Turkey's border province of Sirnak on Monday to prevent dozens of PKK rebels from crossing into northern Iraq. The operation, reinforced by ground troops to clear suspected PKK hideouts, was still going on after several hours.
Two soldiers were killed during the Sirnak operation, army sources told Reuters. Another soldier was killed in Tunceli province, hundreds of kilometres from the border, by a landmine, a device favoured by the outlawed PKK.
As Turkey prepares for a cross-border offensive its military has also launched an extensive operation against suspected PKK positions in several provinces in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
On Sunday, army sources said 20 PKK guerrillas had been killed in the Tunceli campaign involving 8,000 soldiers.
In Ankara warplanes swooped, tanks rolled and troops marched past President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and senior generals in a display of military might designed to stress Turkish unity and resolve. ( Reuters )