ANKARA - Kurdish rebels stormed a Turkish army post on the Iraq border Sunday, triggering fighting that killed 22 people in the latest clash since Ankara launched a major offensive against the outlawed PKK.
Six soldiers, two village guards and 14 Kurdish rebels were killed following the assault on an army post in a village in the southeastern province of Hakkari, the local governor told the Anatolia news agency.
Three of the slain rebels were women, said governor Orhan Alimoglu.
Another 15 soldiers, one village guard and five civilians were wounded, according to a statement from the governor’s office cited by Anatolia. The rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) launched simultaneous assaults on three border posts but the casualties occurred at a post in the village of Gecimli, the private NTV television station reported.
It was the deadliest clash since June when fighting between Turkish soldiers and Kurdish rebels left 28 people dead following a similar attack on an army post in the same region. Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said after Sunday’s attack that Turkey’s fight against “terrorism” would continue. A series of similar assaults against troops in the Kurdish-dominated southeast prompted the army to launch an all-out offensive against PKK bases in the area last month.
The Turkish ground and air operation, one of the biggest in years, is focused on the town of Semdinli, in Hakkari province, and NTV television said about 2,000 troops are involved.
“A serious and strong operation is under way in Semdinli,” Atalay said last week.
The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, took up arms in the southeast in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.
Turkey’s latest offensive against the PKK comes as Kurds in northern Syria are reported to have taken control of some regions as fighting escalates in the uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Damascus of allowing Kurdish rebels a free hand in the north of the country and warned that Ankara would not hesitate to strike “terrorists”.