Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kurd militants kill 7 Turkish soldiers in convoy attack

(Reuters) - Kurdish militants fired rockets at a military convoy in eastern Turkey on Tuesday, killing seven soldiers and wounding more than 60, security sources said, in a further sign that the conflict in the region is deepening.

The convoy was travelling between the provinces of Bingol and Mus when it was hit by a rocket launched by members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the sources said.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and European Union. It took up arms in 1984 with the aim of carving out a Kurdish state in the east of Turkey. The conflict has since killed more than 40,000 people.

Footage aired by Turkey's Dogan news agency on its website showed fire-fighters around the smouldering shell of a bus on a mountainous road.

Two F-16 fighter jets took off from an air base in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir after the attack, a Reuters witness said. Their destination was unclear.

Recent months have seen some of the deadliest fighting in more than a decade. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday some 500 militants had been "rendered ineffective" - killed, wounded, or captured - in the last month alone.

Fighter jets and attack helicopters have bombarded PKK camps in the south-eastern border region with Iraq, and Turkey's chief of staff and other military commanders travelled to the region last week to oversee operations.

Eight police officers were killed on Sunday when a roadside mine exploded in the Karliova district of Bingol and on Saturday suspected PKK fighters killed four Turkish soldiers in an attack on a convoy near the border with Iran and Iraq.

As well as the human toll, the conflict has hampered economic development in one of Turkey's poorest corners and worsened instability in the region bordering Iran, Iraq and Syria.

More than 700 people have been killed since a parliamentary election in June last year, making this the deadliest period since the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999, the International Crisis Group said in a report this month.

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey | Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:21pm BST
(Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Mark Heinrich)

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