ANKARA, (Reuters) – Turkey’s military said on Friday some 35 Kurdish separatist rebels were believed to have been killed amid a recent upsurge in clashes in the country’s southeast, but it had yet to confirm this information.
The military told reporters they had picked up communication between Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels where they referred to some 35 deaths of their members in clashes this week on Cudi mountain in Sirnak, near the border with Iraq.
The militants have stepped up deadly attacks on the Turkish armed forces in recent weeks, piling pressure on the government and military to act decisively against them.
In clashes on Thursday, five soldiers and five PKK rebels were killed. The Turkish military said one of its helicopters crashed because of technical failure, killing a soldier and wounding 15. The PKK said it had shot the helicopter down.
NATO-member Turkey has staged almost daily artillery and aerial attacks on PKK rebels in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq since a militant attack killed 17 soldiers this month.
Turkey blames the PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union, for the deaths of more than 40,000 people since it launched its armed campaign for an ethnic Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.