DIYARBAKIR/ISTANBUL, Turkey (Reuters) - Eight Turkish soldiers and 22 Kurdish militants have been killed in clashes over the last two days, authorities said on Friday, as violence widened in the largely Kurdish southeast following two bombings.
After the collapse of a ceasefire between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the government last July, Turkey’s southeast has seen some of its worst fighting since the height of the Kurdish insurgency in the 1990s.
President Tayyip Erdogan has said the violence, and a concurrent threat from Islamic State militants, justifies Turkey’s broad anti-terror laws, which have become a sticking point with the EU in talks about a landmark deal to stem the flow of illegal migrants to Europe.
“The fight by our security forces in coordination and in harmony with soldiers, police, village guards and all units against terror will continue with determination,” Erdogan said in a statement.
Erdogan, who had spearheaded the peace process between the state and the PKK, has ruled out any return to negotiations and has vowed to crush the militant group. Thousands of people, including hundreds of civilians, have been killed in the renewed violence.
More than 40,000 people, most of them militants, have been killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984. The group wants autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
Six soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in clashes with militants in the southeastern Hakkari province near the border with Iraq on Friday, the military said.
Two more were killed in a separate incident when a helicopter crashed in Hakkari due to a technical fault, the military said. Six PKK militants were also killed in an operation in that region.
In the nearby Siirt province, one militant was killed when security forces pursued vehicles attempting to flee a security check, the local governor’s office said. They found 200 kilograms of explosives in one of the vehicles.
On Thursday, 15 militants were killed in clashes in Sirnak province, the military said.
The military has also carried out regular air strikes against PKK camps in mountainous northern Iraq. A total of 140 militants have been killed in such attacks between April 29 and May 10, broadcaster NTV said, citing the military.
The widening violence follows two bombings on Thursday.
Four suspected bomb makers were killed and 23 people were wounded when an explosion ripped through a village in the southeast as PKK militants loaded explosives onto a small truck, the government said.
Reporting by Seda Sezer; Editing by David Dolan and Nick Tattersall; editing by Ralph Boulton