May 16, 2009 / 12:48 PM / 10 years ago

Turkish forces kill 7 Kurdish rebels in southeast

TUNCELI, Turkey, May 16 (Reuters) - Turkish soldiers killed seven members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in fighting in the country’s southeast, military sources said on Saturday.

A fighter in the government-armed "village guard" militia, which employs local civilians to combat the PKK, was also killed and three soldiers were wounded after clashes broke out on Friday in a mountainous area of Siirt province, they said.

Fighting continued on Saturday, and the army has deployed troop reinforcements, backed by helicopter gunships, to the region in one of the biggest operations in recent months against the PKK, the sources said.

The PKK declared a ceasefire over the winter months that is due to expire on June 1, but sporadic clashes have occurred in recent weeks.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast since 1984, and 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have died in the conflict. (Writing by Ayla Jean Yackley; editing by Myra MacDonald)

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