Istanbul, Sep 7 () - Several Turkish soldiers were killed on Sept. 6 in a major attack in the southeastern province of Hakkari that has been carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, marking a crescendo in a deadly stream of attacks since July.
There was no immediate official casualty toll but in a sign of the gravity of the situation. Militants staged a mine attack on two military vehicles in a convoy in the Dağlıca district of Hakkari, a town bordering Iraq and Iran, security sources told daily Hürriyet. After the explosion, militants opened fire on troops.
The Turkish Armed Forces released a statement early Sept. 7, several hours after the attack, noting that the military unit attacked by militants was removing mines laid on the road by the PKK to re-open it to traffic.
The military unit removed three IEDs, the statement said, before other IEDs were detonated by PKK militants. "There are martyrs and wounded among our heroic brothers-in-arms due to the explosion," the statement said, without giving any casualty figures.
Two F-4s and two F-16s carried out strikes in retaliation against 13 targets controlled by the militants suspected to have carried out the attack, the statement added. "Despite very bad weather conditions, the operation continues decisively."
The PKK claimed the attack as an "act of sabotage" in a statement on the website of its military wing, the People’s Defence Forces (HPG). The group -- which is known for on occasion exaggerating tolls of the security forces -- said 15 Turkish soldiers had been killed.
The PKK has been staging daily attacks against the Turkish armed forces as the military presses an over month-long operation against the group in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq. The violence has left in tatters a 2013 ceasefire aimed at assisting the search for a final peace deal to end the PKK’s three-decade insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Some 70 members of the security forces have been killed since July in attacks blamed on the PKK, while official media have claimed that at least 967 militants have been killed. The unrest comes at a explosive time in Turkey as the country prepares to hold snap elections on Nov. 1 following June 7 polls where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority.