DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) – Kurdish militants armed with rifles and grenade launchers carried out several attacks on Turkish forces near the southeastern border with Syria and Iraq overnight, killing 10 security personnel, security sources said on Monday.
Around 100 guerrillas from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) besieged four state and security installations simultaneously in the small, mountain-ringed town of Beytussebap at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Sunday night.
At least seven members of the security services were wounded in fighting around the town in Sirnak province, and clashes were continuing in the surrounding mountains, the sources said.
They said the bodies of three PKK fighters who had been killed in the battles were brought to a local morgue.
Fighting between the army and the PKK has intensified in recent months, a development which some Turkish officials and analysts have linked to the chaos in neighboring Syria.
The militants have also kidnapped growing numbers of Turkish officials. Security sources said on Monday the PKK had seized a local head of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party in the southeastern province of Hakkari.
The PKK killed five soldiers in a bomb attack on a military convoy two weeks ago. The Turkish military retaliated quickly, killing 21 rebels in an operation involving helicopter gunships.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the PKK and Turkish forces since the militants launched their insurgency 28 years ago with the aim of carving out a separate state in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Some Turkish officials have said the group is getting direct support from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Kurdish groups in Syria.
Assad, who is battling a 17-month-old uprising against his rule in which the United Nations estimates 20,000 people have been killed, has denied that Syria had allowed the PKK to operate on Syrian territory near the Turkish border.
Since June last year, nearly 800 people have died in the conflict in Turkey, including about 500 PKK fighters, more than 200 security personnel and about 85 civilians, according to estimates by the International Crisis Group.
The escalating violence could now entrench a primarily military response from Ankara to the insurgency.
The fighting is focused in the mountainous region bordering Iraq and Iran, but the PKK has also struck in Turkish cities. Officials blamed it for a car bombing last month which killed nine people in Gaziantep, near Turkey’s border with Syria.