TUNCELI, Turkey, Oct 21 (Reuters) Kurdish rebels killed at least 13 Turkish soldiers and wounded 11 others today in an ambush in mountains near the Iraqi border, security sources said, increasing pressure on Turkey to send troops into Iraq.
They were the first Turkish casualties since parliament on Wednesday authorised troops to conduct cross-border incursions into northern Iraq to hunt down rebels who use the mainly Kurdish region as a base.
Fighting continued in Hakkari province in the mountainous border area, with troops backed by Cobra helicopters, the security sources said.
In Arbil, Iraq, a Kurdish military official said the Turkish military fired artillery shells into about 11 areas along the border in Iraq early today but there were no casualties.
Turkey has deployed as many as 100,000 troops along the border to try to stop rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) crossing from Iraqi bases to stage attacks inside Turkey.
The United States, Turkey's NATO ally, and the Baghdad government have urged Ankara to refrain from military action, fearing this could destabilise the most peaceful part of Iraq and possibly the wider region.
But Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government is under pressure from public opinion and the powerful military to take action against the PKK following a series of deadly attacks on Turkish security forces.
More than 30 Turkish troops and security personnel have been killed in rebel attacks in the past month.
OIL Turkey's tough stance has helped propel global oil prices to historic highs over the past week.
The pro-Kurdish Firat news agency quoted one of Turkey's most wanted rebel commanders on Friday as saying the PKK could target oil pipelines if Turkish forces attack them in Iraq.
Pipelines carrying Iraqi and Caspian crude cross eastern Turkey.
Parliament's authorisation is valid for one year. Erdogan has previously signalled military operations are not imminent and Western diplomats in Ankara say Turkey is not keen to send troops into Iraq because of the security and economic risks.
Erdogan has said Baghdad must close down the PKK camps in northern Iraq and hand over rebel leaders.
The crisis has exposed serious strains in relations between Washington and Ankara. The United States relies on Turkey for the bulk of its logistical support for its forces operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group launched its armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984. The United States and European Union class the PKK as a terrorist organisation.
REUTERS SKB PM1535