Turkish troops kill seven PKK militants in clash

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:52am GMT

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish security forces killed seven Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey near the Iraqi border on Thursday, security officials said, in a second day of clashes after violent unrest in the region over the Kurdish new year.

Cobra attack helicopters targeted a group of 30 to 40 Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters holed up on Cudi mountain in troubled Sirnak province, the officials said.

Intense fighting raged in the area and one PKK militant was captured by troops lowered onto the mountain from helicopters.

Six special forces police were wounded in the battles, the sources said, a day after five of their colleagues were killed in the same operation.

The fighting in the mountains flared after thousands of Kurds took to the streets of the mainly Kurdish southeast and big cities elsewhere in Turkey for unauthorised demonstrations to mark Newroz, the Kurdish new year.

Newroz is often an occasion for street protests in Turkey, but violence has escalated this year with tensions fuelled by court investigations of links between Kurdish activists and the PKK which have resulted in thousands of people being detained.

Earlier this week a police officer died of gunshot wounds sustained during street protests in the town of Cizre, while an explosion near offices of the ruling AK Party in Diyarbakir wounded another.

Police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse protests in various south-eastern towns in the last few days after Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party and PKK militants called for large demonstrations.

The PKK launched an armed insurgency against the state in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

(Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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