Two Turkish soldiers killed in PKK clashes, locals flee

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 30, 2012 9:26 AM
Two Turkish soldiers killed in PKK clashes, locals flee

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Kurdish rebels killed two Turkish soldiers in clashes in the country's southeast and hundreds of villagers have fled the fighting, adding to Ankara's concerns over gains by Kurdish groups in neighboring Syria.

The government of Hakkari province, near Turkey's borders with Iraq and Iran, said the two soldiers were killed and 10 others wounded during fighting that broke out there on Sunday.

Fighting, including bombardment with helicopters and war planes, was still underway on the southern fringe of the town of Semdinli, town mayor Sedat Tore said.

He said six hamlets had been evacuated and up to 1,000 people had fled.

The province is the scene of recurring fighting between Turkish forces and fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a separatist insurgency in the mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984 and which is regarded as a terrorist group by the United States, European Union and Turkey.

Syrian opposition forces say President Bashar al-Assad's forces last week quit areas further west on the Turkish-Syrian border, now reportedly controlled by members of a PKK-aligned Syrian Kurdish group.

The collapse of Syria's state security presence in a region populated largely by Kurds has stirred Turkish anxieties about the potential for rekindled separatist sentiment in its borders.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last week that Turkey could intervene in Syria in response to any attack or potential threat deemed to emanate from there.

(Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Angus MacSwan)