Turkey kills 15 Kurdish militants, reportedly sends troops into Iraq after 26 Turkish soldiers die in multiple raids
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Turkish Military and Tank.

Ankara, Turkey - Turkish security forces said they had killed 15 Kurdish militants and they also reportedly launched an incursion inside Iraq Wednesday, after Kurdish rebels killed 26 Turkish soldiers and wounded 22 others in multiple attacks along the border.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said revenge would be "very great" for the attacks in southeastern Turkey.

"No one should forget this, those that inflict this pain on us will endure far greater pain. Those that think they will weaken our state with these attacks or think they will bring our state into line, they will see that the revenge for these attacks will be very great and they will endure it many times over," Gul told reporters in Istanbul.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and its Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu both cancelled foreign trips after the attacks, the deadliest strike on Turkish security forces in 18 years, Al Arabiya reported. Al Arabiya, citing the AFP, said that the PKK killed 33 unarmed soldiers in Bingol province in 1993.

The Kurdish rebels, who are fighting for autonomy in Turkey's southeast, staged simultaneous attacks on military outposts and police stations near the border towns of Cukurca and Yuksekova early Wednesday.

The attacks left 26 soldiers dead and 22 others wounded, the Interior Ministry announced. It was the deadliest Kurdish rebel attack since 1992, according to a tally by NTV television.

Warplane strike bases

In response, Turkish warplanes and artillery units, positioned just inside Turkey, struck Kurdish rebel bases across the border in response, NTV said.

NTV, without citing sources, also said Turkish troops penetrated as deep as 2.5 miles into Iraq and helicopters were ferrying commandos across the border in what appeared to be a cross-border offensive limited in scope for now.

Turkey last staged a major ground offensive against Iraq in early 2008.

Turkish authorities did not immediately confirm the incursion but the chief of the military as well as interior and defense ministers rushed to the border area.

Kurdish rebel group the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, said clashes were taking place in two separate areas close to the mountainous Iraqi-Turkish border.

"We have been clashing with the Turkish forces in two areas since around 3 a.m. today," Dostdar Hamo, a spokesman for the rebel group, said by telephone.

Turkey last week pressured Iraq to move to eradicate the rebel bases in northern Iraq, saying its "patience is running out" in the face of rebel attacks directed at Turkey from Iraqi soil.

Around 100 Kurdish rebels were believed to have participated in the attacks, according to the state-run TRT television. The rebels fled to northern Iraq after the attacks as the military shelled their escape routes, NTV said.

Rebels intensify attacks

The rebels have lately intensified their attacks in the country's Kurdish-dominated southeast, killing dozens of members of the country's security force and at least 18 civilians since mid-July.

On Tuesday, a roadside bomb blast killed five policemen and three civilians, including a 4-year-old girl.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984 as Kurdish politicians pushed for greater cultural and political rights for Kurds, who make up around 20 percent of Turkey's 74 million people, such as the right to education in the mother tongue - a demand that the Turkish government fears could deepen the ethnic divide in the country.

The government has taken steps toward wider Kurdish-language education by allowing Kurdish-language institutes and private Kurdish courses as well as Kurdish television broadcasts. But it won't permit lower-level education in Kurdish.

The European Union, which Turkey is striving to join, has pushed the Turkish government to grant more rights to the Kurds. But EU countries also have urged Kurdish lawmakers to distance themselves from the rebel group, which is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and the EU.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.