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Turkish airstrikes target Kurdish rebels

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  • Turkish military launches airstrikes on Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, PKK says
  • Raids follow clashes between Turkish soldiers, Kurdish rebels in border region
  • At least 15 Turkish soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in latest fighting
  • No casualties caused by air raids, according to PKK
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(CNN) -- Turkey's military launched airstrikes Monday on Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq, according to the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers' Party.

Turkish tanks on the move earlier this year in southeastern Turkey.

There were no casualties, the PKK said. It is the latest round of violence between the two sides. The Turkish military bombed Kurdish rebel targets on Saturday in northern Iraq in response to clashes that left at least 15 Turkish troops dead in the Turkey-Iraq border region, the PKK and the military said Sunday.

The PKK said its rebel forces sustained no casualties in the military bombings Saturday, either.

The Turkish military said Saturday's air operation targeted the PKK's "hiding positions" in the Avasin-Basyan area of northern Iraq near the border with Turkey. Care was taken to avoid civilian casualties, the Turkish military said.

At least 15 Turkish soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in clashes in the southeastern Turkish town of in Semdinli that began Friday and ended Saturday. The PKK put the figure much higher, saying 60 Turkish troops were killed.

PKK said nine of its forces were killed in the fighting, but Turkey's military said 23 PKK members died in the clashes.

Two Turkish troops are still missing after the weekend fighting, and the Turkish military said Sunday they were feared dead.

Speaking to CNN on Monday, the PKK military wing's media office said it does not have the bodies of the two missing Turkish soldiers.

On Tuesday, the Turkish government is scheduled to vote on whether to extend the authority of the Turkish military to launch attacks on PKK positions in northern Iraq.

The U.S. military is "monitoring" the situation, but has no plans to get involved, the commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling said Monday.

"This is an opportunity for the government of Iraq and the government of Turkey to discuss these things; I know the Kurdish Regional Government is also involved," Hertling told reporters at the Pentagon via a teleconference from outside Tikrit, Iraq.

"We are monitoring these actions as Turkey attempts to attack areas which they believe are enclaves for this terrorist group."

Iraq's government condemned the weekend attacks as a "terrorist act" that "creates a serious threat to the security of the border areas and the joint security of Iraq and Turkey," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh on Saturday.

He called on the Turkish government to deal with this "criminal act wisely and with self restraint."

Saturday night, Iraq's Presidency Council, comprised of President Jalal Talabani -- himself a Kurd -- and his two vice-presidents, condemned what it called "a vicious attack against Turkish troops."

"What makes the attack more horrific is the fact that it happened during the days of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, where Muslims should be celebrating, rejoicing and befriending each other ... instead of fighting and bloodshed," the council said. It pledged to "continue its joint efforts with the Turkish side to prevent the recurrence of such attacks and to put an end to the illegal presence of all foreign militants in Iraq."

The central Iraqi government has labeled the PKK a terrorist organization, banning its activities and shutting its offices in the country two years ago.

But the PKK continues to operate in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq bordering Turkey and Iran. The separatist faction has been fighting for self-rule in southeastern Turkey.

In an interview held last month in the group's mountain hideout, the PKK's military commander, Bahoz Erdal, told CNN's Arwa Damon and Yousif Bassil that the PKK is defending Kurdish rights and attacks only military targets.

"We are ready for a political solution," Erdal said, adding that the PKK would lay down its arms if Kurds were guaranteed equal rights within Turkey.

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But the Turkish government told CNN in response that it does not negotiate with "terrorists."

In February, Turkish military ground forces launched a weeklong offensive against the rebels in northern Iraq.

All About Kurdish PoliticsKurdistan Workers' PartyTurkey

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