Turkish military officials say soldiers have killed 19 Kurdish rebels during fighting in southeastern Turkey.

A military statement issued Saturday in Ankara says the militants were killed in an airstrike on a rebel stronghold in Hakkari province, which borders Iraq and Iran. The airstrikes were in retaliation to a Kurdish raid late Friday on a military outpost in Hakkari that left two Turkish soldiers dead.

The military says four other soldiers were killed when troops pursued the rebels.

The military also says it dealt a "serious blow" to Kurdish rebels during an operation into northern Iraq last week. It says many rebels fled, and that two rebel leaders went into hiding.

The rebels deny anyone has fled.

Turkey has stepped up military operations against rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, inside Turkey and in northern Iraq this year.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast for nearly 25 years. The violence has killed more than 30,000 people.

The PKK has been branded a terrorist organization by Turkey and the United States.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.