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Three Kurdish militants killed in attack on Turkish power plant

DIYARBAKIR Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish soldiers killed three Kurdish militants who were part of a group that attacked a power plant in the eastern province of Kars, Turkish sources said on Friday.

Fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) set fire to two vehicles and a cabin at the plant in Kagizman district, and shot at soldiers who returned fire, the general staff said in a statement on its website.

Three PKK guerrillas were killed and a search was launched for the others, a security source said.

The shootout followed unrest in eastern Turkey earlier this month in which dozens died, triggered after Kurds rioted at what they saw as the government’s refusal to help Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State jihadists in the besieged town of Kobani on Turkey’s southern border.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that 200 Kurdish fighters from Iraq would be allowed to pass into Syria via Turkey to reinforce Kobani, but he has also described the main Kurdish force defending the town as a “terrorist” group.

The unrest in eastern Turkey has endangered a peace process between the government and Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, who called a ceasefire in March last year.

Ocalan, whose call for calm has helped contain the street protests, said this week the peace talks had entered a new phase and he was upbeat over the chances of success.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK took up arms in 1984 with the aim of carving out an independent state in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. They now seek autonomy and increased rights for Kurds.

Turkish planes reportedly bombed PKK targets in the southeast in mid-October in the first major air operation against them since the launch of peace talks.

Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Daren Butler and John Stonestreet