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17 killed in clashes between Turkish military, Kurdish rebels

By Yesim Comert, CNN

Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- Seventeen people, including two Turkish soldiers and 12 Kurdish rebels, were killed Wednesday in clashes in the southeastern province of Siirt, Turkey's military said Thursday.

Also among the fatalities were three village guards working for the military, according to a military statement. Operations with helicopter gunships continue against the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in the area, the statement said.

The PKK has been battling the Turkish government since the early 1980s. It has stepped up attacks on Turkish military targets after ending its unilateral cease-fire on June 1. In the last two weeks, 22 soldiers, four village guards and two civilians have been killed by the PKK.

Initially, the outlawed group was fighting for 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.