Turkish gunships 'kill 12 Kurdish rebels'

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The Independent Online

Turkish helicopter gunships, backed by ground troops, killed 12 Kurdish rebels during an operation launched after militants ambushed and killed five members of the security forces, the army said yesterday.

Television news channels showed helicopters firing on rebel positions in the mountains near the town of Pervari in Siirt province in south-east Turkey. Four fighter planes took off from the region's largest city of Diyarbakir, a witness told Reuters.

Violence has risen in recent months and more than 50 Turkish soldiers have been killed as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) increased attacks. The air and ground operation was launched in Siirt after rebels killed two soldiers and three paramilitary village guards late on Wednesday, the army said.

"In a co-ordinated effort, 12 terrorists were killed and their weapons were confiscated by reinforcements sent to the region," the army said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's initiative to expand Kurdish rights has floundered, and the government is facing public anger at its inability to stem the violence ahead of next year's elections.

The PKK called off a unilateral ceasefire on 1 June. Mr Erdogan has called on allies to cut off the rebels' funds and extradite suspected militants. Syrian security forces have detained 400 people in an operation against the PKK, Turkey's state news agency said.