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3 Turkish soldiers, 12 Kurdish rebels killed in attacks

By Yesim Comert, CNN
  • First attack kills three Turkish soldiers and 11 Kurdish militants
  • Another militant killed in second attack
  • Chief of Staff warns all Turks of increased PKK attacks

(CNN) -- Three Turkish soldiers and 12 Kurdish rebels died in two separate clashes in southeastern Turkey Monday night, Turkish military announced Tuesday.

According to the written statement issued by the Turkish military, militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, attacked a military post Monday night near Beyyurdu village of Hakkari province. Three soldiers and 11 militants were killed during the clashes and 3 soldiers were wounded.

Earlier the same night, Kurdish rebels opened fire on the security forces near Bukardi village of Elazig province and wounded six Turkish soldiers while one militant was killed.

The Turkish military has been carrying out operations in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast and along the border with Iraq. Clashes have intensified since the PKK has stepped up attacks after ending its unilateral cease-fire on June 1.

In a rare exclusive interview which aired on Star TV Monday night, Turkey's Chief of General Staff Ilker Basbug called on everyone to be careful everywhere in Turkey, including the western provinces which have been relatively untouched by PKK attacks until recently. He said, "We have to overcome this period in which terrorist attacks have increased all together... " acting as one country "with the least damage."

Basbug said northern Iraq was "a safe haven" for the Kurdish rebels and stated, "PKK presence in North of Iraq will have a negative effect on Turkish-Iraqi relations in the coming period. In a way, it would also affect Turkish-U.S. relations negatively." The Iraqi government rejected Turkey's calls for intervention in its conflict with the PKK last Friday.

The PKK 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. In recent years, the rebels say they have given up their demands for an independent Kurdish state, and are instead fighting for more linguistic and cultural freedoms.