July 20, 2010 / 9:08 AM / 10 years ago

Kurdish rebels kill seven Turkish soldiers

* 6 soldiers die in firefight, 7th killed in separate clash

* Military reinforcements sent to area

* Fighting intensified since ceasefire ended

(Adds separate attack, statement from PKK)

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, July 20 (Reuters) - Kurdish rebels killed six Turkish soldiers in a night attack close to the border with Iraq, military officials said on Tuesday.

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants opened fire on an army unit, triggering a firefight which lasted until morning in the Cukurca area of Hakkari province.

Helicopters flew in reinforcements from a commando barracks in Hakkari. A day earlier, in the same area, 11 soldiers were wounded when their minibus struck a roadside bomb.

A PKK spokesman based in northern Iraq said rebels had killed more than 30 soldiers in the ambush and wounded several more. They also seized several weapons caches, he said.

In a separate attack on Tuesday, one soldier died after his unit opened fire on a group of militants in Van province, security sources said.

Fighting has intensified since the PKK ended a 14-month ceasefire at the start of June, accusing the government of not being serious in its bid to boost Kurdish minority rights and bring to an end an insurgency that began in 1984.

More than 40,000 people have died in the 26-year conflict. Around 100 military personnel have been killed so far this year, already exceeding last year’s death toll.

Most of the PKK’s estimated 4,000 fighters are based in the mountains of neighbouring northern Iraq.

Turkey’s government is under pressure to clamp down on violence ahead of parliamentary elections due in July 2011.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan announced last week plans to create special units to combat guerrillas along the border with Iraq. The plans envisage building 150 new military outposts along the frontier. (Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan, Ayla Jean Yackley and Pinar Aydinli, writing by Daren Butler, editing by Jon Hemming)

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