DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Six people were killed and eight wounded on Friday as violence between Kurdish militants and Turkish soldiers flared up again in Turkey’s southeast, security sources and the military said.
Fighting between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the military has broken out almost daily over the last month. The PKK has been hitting military targets after Ankara resumed air strikes on PKK camps in northern Iraq in what it calls a “synchronized war on terror”.
Ankara has said its military campaign is also designed to tackle Islamic State militants in neighboring northern Syria. However, it has so far focused on the PKK, raising suspicions among Kurds that the main aim is to check Kurdish territorial ambitions rather than to rout the Islamist insurgents.
Friday’s bloodshed came a day before the 31th anniversary of the PKK’s first attacks. The group, deemed a terrorist group by both Washington and Ankara, has waged an insurgency for greater Kurdish autonomy that has left 40,000 dead. The latest violence has shelved a recent peace process with Ankara.
Three soldiers were killed and six wounded — one critically — in the southeastern province of Hakkari after PKK militants opened fire with long-range rifles and rocket launchers, the military confirmed in a statement.
Security sources earlier put the death toll at four soldiers.
In the eastern province of Bingol, a soldier was killed after a mine laid by militants was detonated remotely, the provincial governor’s office said. Two PKK fighters were killed during an operation in response to the attack.
In a separate incident, youths linked to the PKK opened fire with rifles at a police vehicle in the town of Nusaybin bordering Syria early on Friday, wounding two policemen, security sources said.
Earlier this week, Turkish warplanes pounded 17 targets in Hakkari, a border province, as part of the crackdown on the PKK, which has claimed responsibility for the bombing of a police station in Istanbul.
Speaking overnight in his ancestral hometown in northeast Turkey’s Rize province, President Tayyip Erdogan said the operations against militants were not temporary and would continue.
“Those who support them and lead them will be defeated sooner or later,” he told a crowd in the town of Guneysu, his wife at his side. “Don’t dare think they are strong ... They are condemned to fall ... There are terrorist groups behind them, whereas behind us there is God, there are the people.”
Turkish security forces rounded up more than 2,000 people as part of the crackdown in raids against Islamists and Kurdish militants last month. On Friday, police detained at least 34 people in raids, Turkey’s Yeni Safak daily reported.
Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen and Daren Butler in Istanbul; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk and David Dolan; Editing by Digby Lidstone