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Turkish soldiers killed in border clashes

From Ivan Watson
  • PKK says it repulsed attack helicopters
  • The deadly clashes are the latest in a round of intense fighting in the area
  • Scores killed of soldiers, rebels killed in recent months

Ankara,Turkey (CNN) -- Fighting between the Turkish military and Kurdish rebels erupted along the Turkish-Iraq border and left several troops dead, the military and a rebel group said on Saturday.

The Turkish military said at least eight Turkish soldiers and 12 Kurdish rebels died.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party, a rebel group known as the PKK, said nine soldiers were killed and three others were wounded in fighting that occurred after guerillas attacked troops. It said guerrillas repulsed attack helicopters and one chopper was damaged.

The deadly clashes are the latest in a round of intense fighting in the area between Turkish security forces and the PKK.

A top Turkish general announced last week that at least 43 Turkish security forces were killed in clashes since the beginning of March.

Meanwhile, Gen. Fahri Kir, the military commander of domestic security operations, claimed 130 PKK guerrillas had been killed during the same period. He cited airstrikes carried out against rebel targets across the border in Iraq on May 20, which he said killed nearly 100 PKK fighters.

The PKK has long operated out of camps in the remote mountains of northern Iraq and has been battling the Turkish government since the early 1980s.

Initially, the movement fought to carve out a separate homeland for Turkey's ethnic Kurdish minority, which makes up nearly 18 percent of the Turkish population, according to the CIA World Factbook. More than 30,000 people, mostly ethnic Kurds, have been killed during the conflict.