The Turkish army was preparing for a comprehensive ground operation into northern Iraq against the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) in the coming spring, local Today's Zaman daily reported on Monday.
The Turkish military was currently developing its strategy for the operation, which would most likely be launched in the middle of March, said the report.
Following a series of aerial attacks that have seriously disrupted the organization, bringing it to the brink of collapse, the ground operation was planned to be the final strike against the PKK, it said.
The Turkish army has set up military bases at high elevations in the Cudi, Gabar, Kupeli, Tanin and Kato mountains, strategic points used by PKK militants for infiltration into Turkey, said the report, adding that Turkish Special Forces based in Bolu, Kayseri, Isparta and Manisa have been trained for the purpose of destroying remaining PKK presence in northern Iraq.
The spring operation would be carried out in two separate regions, one along Turkey's borders with Iran and Iraq and one inside Turkey, near the provinces of Tunceli, Bingol, Siirt and Diyarbakir, said the report, quoting military sources.
The Turkish army had previously deployed some 50,000 troops in border region before the cross-border operation on Dec. 16 when Turkish warplanes began pounding PKK bases.
During the operations, the regular forces backed the main units by performing mine sweeping. Reports say that the number of troops deployed along the border will not go below 50,000.
The Turkish military has launched several cross-border attacks to fight against PKK separatists, who use the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq as a launch pad for attacks against Turkey.
The PKK, listed by the United States and Turkey as a terrorist group, took up arms against Turkey in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic homeland in the southeast. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the over-two-decade conflict.
(Xinhua News Agency February 18, 2008)