Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. — Photo by Reuters

ISTANBUL: Turkey's parliament passed a bill extending permission, as it has done several times since 2007, for the Turkish military to mount cross-border operations against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq during the coming year.

Turkish air and artillery operations against suspected Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in the Qandil Mountains have intensified since August, straining relations with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq.

The strikes were ordered, after a gap of more than a year, in retaliation for an increase in PKK attacks on security forces inside Turkey. The opposition supported the government motion, but it was rejected by Kurdish lawmakers who won 36 seats in a June election.

Turkey has launched air and ground operations across the border several times in the past. The last incursion was in 2008, when it sent in 10,000 troops backed by air power.

Iraq says Turkey still has 1,300 troops in Iraqi territory manning small observation posts set up in the 1990s with Baghdad's permission.

More than 40,000 people have been killed during the Kurdish separatist insurgency that began in the 1980s.

The renewed violence is another setback for a government initiative in recent years to boost the rights of minority Kurds who account for up to 15 million of Turkey's 74 million population.

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