An upsurge of violence on the Turkish border with northern Iraq has claimed the lives of ten soldiers and Kurdish rebels, Turkish military announced, while the PKK claims to have shot down a Turkish helicopter in a rocket attack.
ANKARA - Turkish troops and Kurdish separatist rebels clashed on Thursday, in an upsurge of fighting the military said had killed five people on each side.
A spokesman for the rebels based in Iraq said they had shot down a Turkish helicopter on the Turkish side of the border with Iraq on Wednesday. The Turkish military said it crashed because of technical failure, killing a soldier and wounding 15.
Turkey's government and military are under increasing pressure to respond forcefully to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas, who have stepped up deadly attacks against Turkish security forces in recent weeks.
The General Staff said four soldiers died when PKK rebels opened fire on them in remote mountains in the province of Hakkari, near the border with Iraq.
The helicopter, carrying reinforcements to the scene, crashed due for technical reasons, it said in a statement.
Ahmed Danees, a PKK spokesman, told a Reuters correspondent in Kurdish northern Iraq by phone fierce clashes were continuing.
"I can confirm to you that four Turkish soldiers were killed and a helicopter was downed by our fighters," he said.
It was not immediately possible to confirm either version. PKK rebels are known to have light anti-aircraft weapons.
The PKK rebels were killed in operations in Semdinli and Sirnak near the Iraqi border, the General Staff said.
NATO-member Turkey has staged almost daily artillery and aerial attacks on PKK rebels in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq since a PKK attack killed 17 soldiers this month.
Turkey blames the PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union, for the deaths of more than 40,000 people since it launched its armed campaign for an ethnic Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.
The PKK has suffered severe military losses from repeated Turkish air strikes on its bases in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey.
Its offensive comes before municipal elections in March in which Turkey's ruling AK Party hopes to lure voters away from pro-Kurdish parties and as Turkey's top court decides on whether to ban a Kurdish party on charges of links to the PKK.
In a diplomatic rapprochement, Turkish officials on Tuesday met in Baghdad with senior Iraqi Kurdish leaders, including Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, to discuss ways of curbing attacks by Iraq-based PKK rebels on Turkish security forces.
The Turkish government has in the past shunned direct contacts with Iraqi Kurdish leaders.
Date created : 2008-10-16