December 4, 2007 / 3:43 PM / 11 years ago

Turkish soldier, six Kurdish rebels die in clash

ANKARA (Reuters) - A Turkish army officer and six Kurdish PKK guerrillas, four of them women, were killed on Tuesday in a clash in mountainous Sirnak province in southeast Turkey, the military General Staff said.

Turkish soldiers patrol in the southeastern Turkish province of Hakkari December 1, 2007. REUTERS/Erkan Capraz/Anatolian

Turkey has stationed up to 100,000 troops in the mainly Kurdish southeast region near its border with Iraq in preparation for possible military strikes against PKK rebels using northern Iraq as a base.

The General Staff said it had identified the slain PKK militants as members of a group responsible for the deaths of 13 soldiers on October 7 in the worst single attack on Turkish forces for many years.

“Operations against the separatist terrorist organization will continue without respite ... in order to ensure peace and security for our citizens in the region,” the General Staff said in a statement.

In the neighboring province of Hakkari on Tuesday another soldier was killed and six wounded when a mortar shell exploded in a military zone, state news agency Anatolian reported.

The October 7 incident led to Turkey’s parliament approving a resolution allowing the armed forces to mount cross-border operations into northern Iraq against the rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Military officials say the first such cross-border operation was conducted on December 1, using helicopters, artillery and special forces, inflicting heavy casualties on the rebels.

The United States is anxious to avert a major Turkish incursion into northern Iraq, fearing this could destabilize the wider region. But it has promised more intelligence to its NATO ally to help deal with the PKK.

Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since the group launched its armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

The United States and the European Union, like Turkey, regard the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Reporting by Gareth Jones; Editing by Giles Elgood

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