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Kurdish Rebels Kill 15 Turkish Soldiers

At least 15 Turkish soldiers have been killed in a clash with Kurdish rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party. or PKK. The clash occurred on the Turkish Iraqi border late Friday night. The Turkish state has been fighting the PKK for more than 20 years. This latest clash, as Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul for VOA, is the most serious in recent months.

A statement by the Turkish armed forces says 15 of its soldiers were killed in an attack on a military outpost near the Iraqi border. The attack is being blamed on Kurdish rebels of the Kurdistan workers Party.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is visiting Turkmenistan gave more details of the attack. Erdogan said he was saddened to learn that 15 soldiers were killed and 20 others were wounded in an assault by the PKK terrorists. He said two soldiers were missing and 23 members of the PKK were killed during the attack.

The attack, according to Turkish media reports, lasted several hours and involved scores of PKK rebels using heavy weapons. It is the most serious attack by the PKK since last year. More than 20 members of the PKK were also killed in the fighting.

The same outpost was the target of another attack in May. Clashes between the PKK and the Turkish state have intensified in the last few weeks, as PKK members attempt to cross back to their bases in neighboring northern Iraq ahead of winter. Ankara accuses the PKK of using Iraq as a base to launch attacks against its forces. Prime Minister Erdogan promises a firm response.

Erdogan said as the political authority, they shared the same determinism displayed by the security forces. He said they would reassess counter-terrorist measures and continue the fight against terrorist organization PKK with determinism.

Last month the prime minister asked the Turkish parliament to extend a year long authorization for the Turkish military to launch attacks into Iraq against PKK bases, a vote is expected in the coming weeks. The Turkish air force regularly carry out air strikes against the rebels in Iraq, the most recent being last week. Last February Turkish soldiers entered Iraq in a eight-day long incursion.

Despite such operations, retired Turkish general Haldun Solmazturk says the PKK still remains a serious threat. "They have the ability, the day factor ability, to practically ambush Turkish units inside Turkey," he said. "And they have the ability to attack military outposts, presumably well-prepared, well-armed, well-equipped."

The PKK have been fighting the Turkish state, for Kurdish autonomy since 1984. The Turkish government is due to meet with the heads of the armed forces to discuss their reaction to this latest attack. Analysts say they will be under intense public pressure for a firm response.