DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - A senior commander of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group has been killed in a bomb attack on a car in which he was traveling in northeast Syria, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Saturday.
If confirmed, the killing of Fehman Huseyin would be a major blow to the PKK, which been fighting in southeast Turkey since a two-year-old ceasefire collapsed a year ago. Thousands of militants, security force members and civilians have died in the conflict since.
Huseyin, a Syrian Kurd known in Turkey by the code name Bahoz Erdal, was killed on Friday evening as he traveled to the northern Syrian city of Qamishli, Anadolu said.
It cited a spokesman of a Syrian rebel group it named as the Tel Khamis Brigades as the source for the report.
The spokesman, Khalid al Khasakewi, said at least eight people were killed in the car in which Huseyin was traveling and that the attack was carried out after tracking him for a long time.
“We dedicate this operation... to the Syrian people,” Khasakewi was quoted as saying, indicating his group had carried out the attack.
While the PKK leadership is mainly based in the mountains of northern Iraq, the group is closely allied with the Kurdish YPG militia which operates in Syria. Turkey views both groups as terrorist organizations.
Earlier on Saturday, PKK militants carried out a car bomb attack on a military outpost in southeast Turkey and then opened fire on the facility, killing two soldiers and a civilian and wounding dozens, security sources said.
The car bombing targeted the Cevizlik village outpost in Mardin province, which borders Syria, around 12:40 p.m. (0940 GMT), the sources said, adding military reinforcements were sent to capture the attackers.
They said those wounded in the attack included 23 soldiers, three of whom were seriously hurt, and 14 civilians as well as one member of the village guard which supports the army in its security operations.
The attack came a day after Turkish troops killed 19 PKK fighters in clashes elsewhere in the mainly Kurdish region.
The army spotted militants preparing an attack on Friday on an army base in the Semdinli district of Hakkari province, a mountainous area near the Iraqi and Iranian borders, a military statement said.
It said the armed forces killed 17 PKK guerrillas in the subsequent clash and seized guns, grenades and ammunition.
Separately, further north in the Baskale district of Van province, security force members who were destroying explosives planted beside a road were engaged in a firefight and killed two PKK militants, one of them female, the statement said.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies, began its insurgency in 1984.
Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Roche