18 killed as Kurdish rebels and Turkish soldiers clash

18 killed as Kurdish rebels and Turkish soldiers clash

Fighting along Iraq border come as Ankara explores granting more rights to Kurdish minority

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Kurdish rebels attacked Turkish military units in southeastern Turkey on Tuesday, sparking clashes in which 10 rebels and eights soldiers died, authorities said.

The attack happened in Daglica area of Hakkari province, which borders northern Iraq’s Kurdish areas.

Sixteen Turkish soldiers were also wounded in the attack, the governor’s office in Hakkari said in a statement.

A similar rebel attack in the same area in late 2007, when 12 Turkish soldiers died, had triggered an eight-day incursion by the Turkish military into Iraq in February 2008. Rebels use northern Iraq as a base from where to launch attacks on Turkish troops.

The rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, is fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey. Tens of thousands have died since it took up arms in 1984.

The attack came amid efforts by the government to try to reconcile with the Kurdish minority through granting more cultural rights. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently announced plans to introduce elective Kurdish lessons in schools, after allowing Kurdish language broadcasts on television.

Turkey refuses demands by Kurdish activists, rebels and politicians of full education in Kurdish, fearing that it could divide the country along ethnic lines. An estimated 20 percent of Turkey’s 75 million are Kurds.

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