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Turkish forces battle Kurd rebels

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ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkish armed forces have begun a spring offensive against rebels with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) ahead of an expected surge in militant activity, the head of Turkey's military said Thursday.

In a rare news conference, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said operations were already under way at several locations in the country and that in April alone at least 10 Turkish soldiers had been killed in the fighting.

Buyukanit said the military had information that the PKK would expand its terror activities in May as the weather warmed up.

The general also said he believed the Turkish military ought to expand its operations into northern Iraq, where the PKK conducts training and gets logistical support.

But he said that decision had to be made in parliament, adding that the military had not asked the government to approve such an operation.

The Turkish government has been fighting the Kurdish separatist group since the early 1980s at the cost of more than 30,000 lives. The PKK wants an independent nation for its people. The European Union and the U.S. consider the PKK a terrorist group.

Meanwhile, Buyukanit also shared his thoughts on the coming presidential elections and the possibility that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- the only candidate so far -- may take the presidency.

The general said that only someone who genuinely believed in the secularism of the republic -- and not someone who only voiced those sentiments -- would become the next president.

Turks who fear Islamist rule are organizing a march Sunday in Ankara. Erdogan's government has responded by changing train schedules to try to impede protesters coming into the capital from cities across the country.

The president of Turkey's parliament warned those who planned to join the march to be careful.

-- CNN's Talia Kayali contributed to this report.

Buyukanit called for Turkey to extend its military operations into northern Iraq.

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