Kurdish rebels, Turkish soldiers killed in clashes
Dozens of people were killed and injured, including Turkish soldiers, state militiamen and Kurdish militants, after rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked a military outpost in southeast Turkey on Sunday, security officials said.
AP - Kurdish rebels raided three military posts in simultaneous attacks early on Sunday, sparking a clash at one paramilitary outpost that left six soldiers and 12 rebels dead, officials and news reports said. Two government-paid village guards assisting the Turkish military were also killed.
The rebels fired on military posts in Hakkari province, near the border with Iraq, including the paramilitary station near the village of Gecimli, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border, according to a statement from the Hakkari governor's office. It said the attack near Gecimli triggered clashes that claimed the lives of 20 rebels, soldiers and village guards. At least 15 soldiers, another village guard and five civilians were also injured in the attack.
There were no reports of any casualties in the attacks on the other posts.
The attack comes some six weeks after a similar raid on a military unit, also in Hakkari province, killed 18 rebels and eight soldiers, prompting Turkey's military to send warplanes and attack helicopters to hit Kurdish rebel targets inside Iraq.
The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, are fighting for autonomy in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast region and maintain bases in northern Iraq from where they launch hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets.
The conflict between the PKK and Turkish government forces has killed tens of thousands of people since the rebels took up arms in 1984. The group is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
The military on Sunday sent reinforcements, launching ground and air operations to chase the rebels, the governor's office said, without elaborating. State-run TRT television said attack helicopters were firing on the rebels' escape routes in the rugged, mountainous border region.
Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay, meanwhile, condemned the attack, which came during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, and said his government was determined to keep up the fight against the PKK.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently ruled out negotiating with the PKK to end the decades-old conflict and said state security forces would continue their struggle against the group until it lays down arms. An estimated 20 percent of Turkey's 75 million people are Kurds. The government is trying to reconcile with the Kurdish minority by granting it more cultural rights.
Erdogan's government recently announced plans to introduce elective Kurdish classes in schools, building on moves that allowed Kurdish language television broadcasts, Kurdish-language institutes and private Kurdish courses.
The government however, refuses demands by Kurdish activists and politicians for full education in the Kurdish language, fearing it would divide Turkey along ethnic lines.