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Turkey kills 13 PKK fighters in Iraqi Kurdistan

Military strike comes amid Kurdish independence referendum that voters overwhelmingly approved
Turkish jets struck a target in northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing 13 suspected Kurdish PKK fighters (AFP)

Turkish jets struck a target in northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing 13 suspected Kurdish PKK fighters, the armed forces said in a statement.

"In an air strike in northern Iraq, 13 armed members of a separatist terrorist organisation preparing for an attack were neutralised," the statement said, using a term which Turkey uses to describe Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters.

The PKK has been waging an insurgency in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since the 1980s, but also has bases across the border in northern Iraq, which Turkey regularly targets.

Turkish troops are also conducting a joint military exercise with Iraqi soldiers near their border after Monday's referendum for Kurdish independence in northern Iraq, which has angered both Ankara and Baghdad.

Turkey fears the non-binding referendum, which was overwhelmingly approved, could fuel support for separatism in its southeastern region, and has threatened economic and military measures in response.

Turkey has threatened to cut border access and oil exports out of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said Turkish troops could "arrive any night" in Iraqi Kurdistan if Ankara wished.

"Now when we start implementing sanctions, you will be stuck right there in the middle. It is all over once we turn off the tap," said Erdogan. "They will be unable to find food once the trucks stop going to northern Iraq."

Turkey is the main gateway to international markets for the landlocked area. It ships more than 500,000 barrels of oil daily through Turkish pipelines and tankers to international markets.

Turkey also remains the major supplier of processed and raw foodstuff to the region. Iraq ranks as Turkey's third biggest export market, with northern Iraq taking a major share of Turkish products.

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