ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Eight Turkish military personnel have died in combat with Kurdish rebels and in a subsequent helicopter crash near the country's border with Iraq, the military said Friday. At least six rebels were also killed in the fighting.
Clashes broke out early Friday with rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, near the town of Cukurca, in Hakkari province, killing six soldiers, a military statement said. Eight other soldiers were wounded.
A military helicopter sent to the area to support the soldiers later crashed, killing its two pilots, the military said, adding that the crash was due to a technical fault.
Fighting between the PKK and the government forces picked up again in July when a more than two-year-old peace process collapsed. Around 400 security force members have died since then.
The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its allies, has waged a three-decades-long insurgency against Turkey, in a bid to gain autonomy for Kurds in the southeast of the country. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.
PKK-linked rebels have staged multiple bomb attacks against Turkish police and troops, which in turn have carried out tank-backed security operations in flashpoint areas.
On Thursday, four Kurdish rebels were killed while loading explosives onto a truck in the mainly Kurdish Diyarbakir province, hours after a separate blast targeting the military in Istanbul wounded eight.
The United Nations Committee against Torture on Friday expressed serious concerns over law enforcement officers' conduct during the renewed fight against Kurdish militants, including allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees and reports of extrajudicial killings.
The committee called for the prosecution of alleged perpetrators as well as their commanders and said the victims should be adequately compensated.
It said Turkey had not yet created an independent body to investigate allegations of ill-treatment and torture. It also criticized the practice by police officers of filing counter-charges of resisting police arrest or insulting police officers against those who lodge complaints of police brutality.
Separately, the U.N. human rights body welcomed an invitation by Turkey's Foreign Ministry for U.N. investigators to probe alleged violations committed by the security forces in their campaign against the rebels, but sought assurances that the mission would be granted "full and unhindered access."
This story has been corrected to give the total Turkish military death toll as eight, not 10.