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Fighting in southeastern Turkey leaves 26 dead, reports say

From Gul Tuysuz, For CNN
updated 1:32 PM EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
File photo of Turkish president Abdullah Gul, who condemned the attack.
File photo of Turkish president Abdullah Gul, who condemned the attack.
  • NEW: The death toll rises to 26 in a military-PKK clash, according to reports
  • A government office says Kurdish rebels staged the attack
  • The United States, Turkey and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist organization
  • "I condemn this treacherous attack," Turkish President Abdullah Gul says

(CNN) -- Fighting between Kurdish rebels and government troops in southeastern Turkey left more than two dozen dead Tuesday, according to reports from officials and a news agency.

Eight soldiers and 10 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, were killed when the rebels attacked a military station in the town of Yuksekova, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the Iranian border, according to a statement from the governor's office in Hakkari province. Sixteen other soldiers were wounded in the attack, government officials said.

Eight more rebels died in a counterattack by Turkish forces, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.

Turkey has been fighting the PKK since 1984. Initially, the movement sought a separate homeland for Turkey's ethnic Kurdish minority. But now, the rebels say they are instead fighting for more linguistic and cultural freedoms.

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Turkey, the United States and the European Union have formally labeled the PKK a terrorist organization and Turkish President Abdullah Gul had harsh words after the group's latest violence.

"I condemn this treacherous attack," he said. "The terrorist organization is still carrying out its inhumane and bloody acts in an effort to sabotage the atmosphere of trust and stability, and to weaken the strong determination to reinforce peace, reach a resolution, achieve the reign of peace and tranquility, and to put a stop to the pain and tears."

This is not the first time a military outpost in the area has been targeted. In 2007, 12 Turkish soldiers were killed and eight were kidnapped in an attack on an outpost there.

Recently, there has been movement on restarting a peace process, with the head of Turkey's leading opposition party signaling his willingness to work toward a resolution with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan recently announced that students could elect to take Kurdish language lessons under a new educational reform package.

Leyla Zana, a leading Kurdish politician and a member of the opposition Kurdish BDP, told Turkish newspaper Hurriyet last week that she hopes that Erdogan will act to solve the Kurdish issue, saying that "he is powerful enough to do so."

More than 40,000 people, mostly ethnic Kurds, have been killed in the conflict.

What drives Turkey's new Syria stance? A fear of two Kurdistans

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz contributed to this report.

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