PKK kill two Turkish soldiers, hundreds flee fighting
Published Monday, July 30, 2012
Kurdish rebels have killed two Turkish soldiers in clashes in the country's southeast, prompting hundreds of villagers to flee the fighting, officials said.
The governor of Hakkari province, near Turkey's borders with Iraq and Iran, said the two soldiers were killed and 10 others wounded during fighting that broke out on Sunday.
Clashes, including bombardment of rebels with helicopters and warplanes, was still underway on the southern fringe of the town of Semdinli, town mayor Sedat Tore said.
He said six hamlets had been evacuated and up to 1,000 people had fled.
The province is the scene of recurring clashes between Turkish forces and fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a separatist insurgency in the mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984.
Syrian opposition groups said President Bashar al-Assad's forces last week quit areas further west on the Turkish-Syrian border, now reportedly controlled by members of a PKK-aligned Syrian Kurdish group.
The collapse of Syria's state security presence in a region populated largely by Kurds has stirred Turkish anxieties about the potential for rekindled separatist sentiment within its borders.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that Turkey could intervene in Syria in response to any attack or potential threat deemed to emanate from there.
Turkey, once a close ally of Assad, has actively sought his ouster by backing Syrian rebels, including the hardline Muslim Brotherhood.
Rising tensions between the two countries may have prompted Assad to rekindle ties with the PKK, allowing their fighters to move into Syrian territory and set up base within predominantly Kurdish areas.