Turkish army says eight Kurd rebels killed in clash

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish troops have killed eight Kurdish guerrillas in a fire fight in southeast Turkey, bringing the total death toll in a two-day clash to 13, military headquarters said on Sunday.

The clash broke out on Friday evening in the mountainous province of Sirnak, along the border with Iraq, when the militants opened fire and killed five state-backed village guards, military sources said on Saturday.

The armed forces confirmed those deaths on its Web site and said five village guards had also been injured in the fighting.

After the initial shooting, Turkish military forces backed by helicopters launched an operation in the area in search of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels.

This year the military has carried out repeated air raids targeting PKK fighters based in northern Iraq, from where several thousand rebels stage attacks on Turkish territory.

Turkey’s army launched a big ground offensive against the PKK inside northern Iraq in February, causing concern in the United States about regional instability.

Interior Minister Besir Atalay said on Saturday the PKK was behind a double bomb attack in Istanbul a week ago in which 17 people were killed. A Turkish court remanded in custody eight people over the attack, accusing them of PKK membership.

The militant group denies any involvement in the bombings and no one has claimed responsibility.

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 with the aim of carving out a homeland in southeast Turkey. Some 40,000 people have died in the conflict.

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