TUNCELI, Turkey, (Reuters) – A Turkish soldier died and two others were injured late on Friday during an operation to rescue two civilians kidnapped by Kurdish separatist rebels in the country’s southeast, army sources said.
Clashes broke out during the operation in the province of Tunceli and a soldier died after being shot.
The hostages, from local villages, remain in the hands of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrilla group although the attempt to rescue them is continuing, the army said.
Last month the PKK extended a unilateral ceasefire to July 15 to pursue a more peaceful resolution to Turkey’s 25-year separatist conflict. But it said it reserved the right to defend itself if it came under attack by the military.
Politicians, the army and PKK leaders have made overtures about peacefully ending a conflict that has killed 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, since 1984.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said a month ago that Turkey had “an historic opportunity” to end the conflict, which has long hampered the European Union candidate’s development and has been a source of regional tension.
The government has expanded cultural and political rights of minority Kurds under reforms aimed at winning entry to the EU.