Kurdish rebels kill Turkish soldiers in bomb blast

Turkish riot police during a demonstration in Diyarbakir. Picture: AFP/Getty
Turkish riot police during a demonstration in Diyarbakir. Picture: AFP/Getty
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Kurdish rebels have detonated an explosives-laden agricultural vehicle at a military police station in eastern Turkey, killing two soldiers and wounding 24 others, authorities said.

Militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, used two tons of explosives to attack the station on a road near the town of Dogubayazit in Agri province, close to Turkey’s border with Iran, causing extensive damage to the building. The wounded soldiers were taken to hospital.

In a separate attack, one soldier was killed and four others were injured when their military vehicle hit a land mine believed to have been laid by the rebels in the south-eastern Mardin province, the local governor’s office said.

Violence has flared in Turkey in the past ten days, shattering a fragile peace process launched in 2012 with the Kurds. The government has conducted almost daily airstrikes at PKK bases in northern Iraq while the rebels have attacked Turkey’s security forces.

The airstrikes began as the US and Turkey announced the outlines of a deal to help push the Islamic State group back from a strip of territory it controls along the Syrian-Turkish border, replacing it with more-moderate rebels backed by Washington and Ankara.

At least 24 people have been killed in the renewed violence in Turkey, most of them soldiers.

Turkey’s allies have supported Turkey’s fight against the PKK, which they consider a terror organisation. But they have also urged Turkey to exercise restraint and to return to the peace process. Turkey’s campaign against the PKK is complicating the US war on IS militants, which has relied heavily on Syrian Kurdish fighters affiliated with Turkey’s Kurdish rebels. Government critics and Kurdish activists accuse the government of reigniting the conflict in a bid to win nationalist votes and erode support for the country’s pro-Kurdish party in possible new elections in the autumn.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency has claimed that 260 rebels were killed in the air raids against PKK targets in northern Iraq.

Kurdish activists said the Turkish airstrikes had destroyed at least six homes in the town of Zargel on Saturday, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 12.

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government called on the PKK to withdraw from Iraq’s Kurdish territory to prevent civilian deaths amid the Turkish airstrikes, while condemning Turkey for bombing civilians. The regional government also called on both sides to resume peace talks.

Turkey said on Saturday it had launched an investigation into the reported civilian deaths. It insisted that targets were attacked only after the military was fully satisfied that the areas were free of civilians.