DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish security forces killed at least 15 Kurdish rebels in a raid near the country’s border with northern Iraq after tracking them with drones and attacking them with helicopters and on the ground, officials said on Wednesday.
They said drones spotted a group of Kurdish fighters who blocked roads on Monday in Hakkari province, then pinpointed them for an attack when the Kurdish fighters returned to the same area on Tuesday evening.
Three Turkish soldiers were injured in clashes that ensued, the security officials said.
The region is the theatre of a 28-year-old conflict between Turkish forces and fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which in various incarnations has waged a campaign for autonomy in the largely Kurdish southeast of Turkey.
Turkey has cemented ties with the Kurdish leadership of Iraq’s semi-autonomous north, where the PKK has a military presence, through trade and investment, but remains wary that the example of Kurdish self-rule in Iraq and deepening chaos in neighbouring Syria could inflame its own Kurdish conflict.
Syrian Kurdish opposition figures say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have quit areas of Hassaka and Aleppo provinces, which border Turkey, leaving them under the control of the PKK-linked Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The head of the Syrian National Council - which aspires to political leadership of the revolt against Assad and much of whose leadership is in Turkey - said Assad’s troops had lost control of some parts of those regions, but that the Syrian opposition did not endorse any Kurdish separatist project.
Reporting by Seymus Cakan; Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Louise Ireland