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KURDS AMBUSH TURKISH TROOPS IN N. IRAQ, KILLING 11 SOLDIERS

Kurdish guerrillas ambushed Turkish troops before dawn Saturday in northern Iraq, killing 11 soldiers in the bloodiest rebel attack since Turkey launched a major campaign last month.

Turkey sent 35,000 troops into northern Iraq on March 20 to try to wipe out Kurdish rebel bases used for hit-and-run attacks in Turkey.Military officials say 67 soldiers have been killed since the offensive began. The rebels have lost 446 troops.

Saturday's ambush was in the Hamam valley, about a half-mile south of the Turkish border.

In southeastern Turkey - where rebels are fighting for autonomy - troops killed nine Kurdish guerrillas in the province of Bitlis, the regional governor's office announced Saturday. No further details were given.

More than 15,000 people have died since 1984 in fighting between rebels and government forces.

Prime Minister Tansu Ciller left for the United States on Saturday. She is scheduled to meet with President Clinton on Wednesday to discuss Turkey's military operation against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

Despite intense pressure from Western governments, Ciller has refused to give a timetable for the withdrawal of the troops.

Ciller will be in New York until Tuesday and later will attend a festival in Houston and meet with former President George Bush before returning home April 23.