Turkish forces kill 13 Kurdish militants near Syria border

TUNCELI, Turkey Wed Dec 5, 2012 6:48am EST

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TUNCELI, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish troops and attack helicopters pounded Kurdish militants near the border with Syria, killing 13 militants and capturing five others, the regional governor's office said on Wednesday.

The operation was launched at the western end of Turkey's frontier with Syria, far from the main arena of conflict between Turkish government forces and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants further east along the borders with Iraq and Iran.

Ankara has linked a surge in militant violence since the summer with the chaos in neighboring Syria and has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of resuming support for the PKK and arming the militants.

The latest Turkish military operation, which began on Monday, was based on intelligence received from a drone indicating PKK militants were in the area.

Troops captured five PKK militants, the Osmaniye provincial governor's office said, and the operation was continuing.

Clashes between the army and militants generally surge during the summer when snow melts in the mountainous region, and PKK fighters spend the harsh winter in camps along Turkey's southeast border.

Over 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between Turkey and the PKK. The militants began fighting in 1984 with the aim of carving out a separate state in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey. They now seek autonomy in the region.

The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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