ANKARA, Turkey, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- The Turkish military was pursuing rebels near the Turkish-Iraqi border after militants attacked soldiers, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday.
Erdogan said the military was conducting a sweeping search operation in the region after 24 soldiers were killed and at least 18 wounded in the attacks in a southeastern province, The New York Times reported.
"As of now, wide-reaching operations, including hot pursuit operations, are continuing in the region within the framework of international law," Erdogan said during a news conference in Ankara. "We will combat terror on one front and, on another front, we will continue our path to destroy the grounds that terror manipulates."
The private television network NTV said Turkish troops chased attackers into northern Iraq, where the militant separatist Kurdish Worker's Party is based.
The militant strikes in Hakkari province lasted about four hours Wednesday. Government officials said rockets were fired at security forces and military sites in Cukurca, CNN reported.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul vowed that the country would strike back.
"Embracing our own people, being affectionate to our people, protecting rights and law of our people is one thing, while struggling against terror without compromise is a joint decision of both our state and the nation," he said.
The attacks occurred as Turkey is drafting a new constitution that would provide greater rights for ethnic minorities, the Times said. The rebels seek more autonomy in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast. Since 1984, tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict.
The United States, the European Union and Turkey list the Kurdish Worker's Party, known by the initials PKK, as a terrorist organization and have shared intelligence with Turkey on the group's movements in northern Iraq since 2007.
"As a friend and ally, the United States will continue to stand with the people and government of Turkey in their fight against the PKK," U.S. ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., said in a statement.