ISTANBUL: Twenty-two Kurdish militants were killed during clashes in eastern Turkey over the last three days, CNN Turk television said on its website yesterday, adding to Ankara’s concerns over gains by Kurdish groups in neighboring Syria.
Fighting, including bombardment with helicopters and war planes, continued on the outskirts of the town of Semdinli, CNN Turk reported.
Two Turkish soldiers were reported killed and 10 others wounded on Sunday during fighting that broke out in Hakkari province, near Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Iran, and hundreds of villagers have fled the fighting.
The province is the scene of recurring fighting between Turkish forces and fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a separatist insurgency in the mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984 and which is regarded as a terrorist group by the United States, European Union and Turkey.
Syrian opposition forces say President Bashar al-Assad’s forces last week quit areas further west on the Turkish-Syrian border, now reportedly controlled by members of a PKK-aligned Syrian Kurdish group.
The collapse of Syria’s state security presence in a region populated largely by Kurds has stirred Turkish anxieties about the potential for rekindled separatist sentiment in its borders.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last week that Turkey could intervene in Syria in response to any attack or potential threat deemed to emanate from there.