ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Clashes between Turkish security forces and autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels have claimed nearly 60 lives in the southeast and across the border in northern Iraq, officials said Tuesday.
More than 30 Kurdish rebels were killed overnight in a cross-border military operation in northern Iraq, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a meeting with dozens of district administrators.
Kurdish militants killed two police officers Monday night in the southern city of Adana. Gov. Mustafa Buyuk said assailants riding a motorcycle fired on a police vehicle outside a hospital in Adana before fleeing.
Turkey's military, meanwhile, said six rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, were killed Monday in a clash with the security forces in Hakkari province, near the border with Iraq. At least 19 others were killed in airstrikes Friday conducted by Turkish jets against suspected PKK targets in northern Iraq's Gara region, a military statement said Tuesday, without elaborating. The reports of PKK deaths couldn't be verified independently.
Turkey's security forces are battling the rebels in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast region while Turkish jets carry out air strikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq. The fighting with the PKK, which is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its Western allies, resumed in July and comes as Turkey prepares to hold a new parliamentary election on Nov. 1.
Critics accuse Erdogan of re-igniting the fighting, after more than two years of peace efforts, for electoral gains. Opponents say he aims to rally nationalist votes around the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and discredit a pro-Kurdish party whose electoral gains in an election in June deprived the AKP — which he founded — of its parliamentary majority.
Erdogan denies the accusation and says the violence flared because the PKK broke a cease-fire agreement and stepped up attacks.
Erdogan said about 2,000 rebels have been killed in military offensives both in northern Iraq and in Turkey in the renewed fighting. Around 150 police and soldiers have also died in PKK attacks since then.
Erdogan on Tuesday vowed to keep up the fight against the rebels.
"We won't stop. There will be no complacency. We will press ahead (with the fight) in the same way," Erdogan said.
The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives since it started in 1984.