April 11, 2016 / 1:57 PM / 3 years ago

Turkish cabinet meets in strife-torn southeast as fighting rages

SANLIURFA, Turkey (Reuters) - Fighting raged on Monday between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey as the cabinet met in the restive region to discuss ways of rebuilding its shattered economy.

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attends news conference in Helsinki, Finland in this April 6, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva

A car bomb smashed into a military base in Diyarbakir province, killing one soldier and wounding 20 others, just hours after cabinet adjourned in neighboring Sanliurfa, security sources said.

The Turkish army said 39 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) had been killed in clashes in four towns across the region over the weekend, adding to a death toll that has risen sharply since the collapse of a ceasefire last July.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu chaired the cabinet meeting in the city of Sanliurfa, the first held outside the capital Ankara since 2003. Though located in southeast Turkey, Sanliurfa has so far been largely spared the violence elsewhere in the region.

Ministers were due to discuss urban redevelopment plans after months of clashes in towns and cities across the mainly Kurdish southeast.

A vehicle laden with explosives rammed into a gendarmes’ base in the town of Hani, located north of the provincial capital of Diyarbakir, the security sources said. The force of the blast was so strong that windows shattered and buildings around town shook, witnesses said.

Gunfire rang out overnight and smoke rose from neighborhoods in Yuksekova in Hakkari province, which neighbors Iran, security sources said.

The army said 20 PKK militants had been killed on Saturday and 19 more on Sunday in the towns of Nusaybin, Sirnak, Silopi and Yuksekova. It did not say whether any members of the military or security forces had also been killed.

Thousands of militants and hundreds of civilians and soldiers have been killed since the PKK resumed its fight against the Turkish state last summer, wrecking a 2-1/2-year ceasefire and peace process.

The government has refused to return to the negotiating table and has vowed to “liquidate” the PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK took up arms in 1984.

Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan and Ayla Jean Yackley; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Daren Butler, Gareth Jones and Tom Brown

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