ANKARA (Reuters) - Kurdish militants said on Sunday they had killed 15 soldiers in an attack on an army convoy in southeast Turkey, and a security source said the military responded with air strikes.
In a statement posted online, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) said its guerrillas had ambushed the convoy of armored vehicles in Yuksekova district, in what could be the bloodiest assault since the collapse of a ceasefire in July.
“An attack from several sides left 15 soldiers dead, and a large number of weapons were seized in the action,” the statement read.
The number of casualties could not be independently verified but in a televised statement President Tayyip Erdogan confirmed an incident had taken place in Hakkari province, close to Turkey’s borders with Iran and Iraq.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who had been watching the national soccer team playing in the city of Konya, left the stadium early to return to the capital as news of the attack broke.
A senior security official told Reuters that Turkish jets had retaliated, hitting at least 10 PKK targets, including those behind the ambush.
The clashes mark a crescendo in a deadly stream of attacks since July, which officials said had already claimed the lives of at least 70 members of the security services and hundreds of PKK militants.
The PKK has fought a three-decades-long insurgency against the government, demanding greater Kurdish autonomy. The group is listed as a terrorist organization in both Europe and the United States.
Each side blames the other for the collapse of the ceasefire, which has left efforts to bring a lasting end to the conflict in tatters.
“A new strategy will be adopted in the fight against terror. We’ll continue with determination,” Erdogan said in his address.
The location of the ambush had painful symbolism for the Turkish armed forces. It took place near the village of Daglica, scene of a PKK attack in 2007 in which 12 soldiers were killed and eight captured.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Orhan Coskun, writing by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Mark Trevelyan