DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Three soldiers and 28 Kurdish militants have been killed in air strikes and clashes over the past two days in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, the military said on Saturday, two weeks before an election.
The soldiers were killed in clashes with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in Daglica, in the province of Hakkari, where six others were wounded. The military said it had killed 17 PKK members in a ground operation, which it said was still continuing, to flush out the attackers.
“One of the soldiers martyred in Daglica is the battalion commander. Operations are continuing,” President Tayyip Erdogan told reporters during a trip to northern Cyprus.
“Operations will continue until peace is attained. It is the job of the state to protect its citizens and the country.”
Security sources said the operation around Daglica included special forces units and air support.
Turkish air strikes against PKK bases in Hakkari, close to the borders with Iran and Iraq, killed 11 suspected militants on Friday and destroyed weapons depots and shelters, the military said in an earlier statement on Saturday.
The violence persists despite a PKK call a week ago ordering its forces to halt all actions in Turkey unless attacked.
The government had dismissed the move as an election gambit to bolster the pro-Kurdish opposition ahead of Nov. 1 parliamentary polls and has said military operations will continue until PKK fighters disarm and leave Turkey.
The PKK, deemed a terrorist organization by the United States and the EU, has been fighting an insurgency since 1984, demanding greater Kurdish autonomy in the southeast of the country. Some 40,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
The conflict has surged again since a two-year ceasefire collapsed in July, leaving peace negotiations in tatters.
Additional reporting by Asli Kandemir in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Ruth Pitchford