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Turkish soldier killed, six wounded in operation in Iraq's north

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish soldier was killed and six wounded on Friday in an operation in northern Iraq during clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Turkish defence ministry said.

The Turkish military last week launched what it described as the second stage of a campaign it has dubbed “Operation Claw” in northern Iraq. The campaign was first started on May 27 in northern Iraq’s Hakurk region, targeting the PKK with artillery and air strikes as well as operations by commando brigades.

The PKK militant group is based in northern Iraq, notably in the Qandil region to the south of Hakurk. Turkey says Operation Claw aims to destroy shelters and caves used by the PKK and “neutralise” its members - a term it commonly uses to refer to deaths, but also those wounded or captured.

Turkey has frequently launched air strikes in the region but the latest campaign has included artillery fire and ground operations.

The defence ministry said two PKK members were killed in air strikes in northern Iraq on Friday in a separate operation.

The ministry said on Monday a total of 71 PKK members had been “neutralised” within the scope of the two Claw operations since May 27, and a total of 174 members had been “neutralised” in northern Iraq during the same period.

Separately, a Turkish gendarmerie major was killed on Friday when an improvised explosive device planted by the PKK went off in Bitlis province, eastern Turkey, the Interior Ministry said.

A security source earlier said the major had been killed in a PKK rocket attack and that two other people had been wounded.

The PKK insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast began in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict. It is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the European Union and United States.

Reporting by Sarah Dadouch and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Mark Heinrich