Turkish military jets have bombed PKK rebel targets in southeastern Turkey, immediately following the deaths of three Turkish soldiers, in two separate attacks in a neighbouring province.
Turkish warplanes hit Kurdish rebel targets in southeastern Turkey on Tuesday, Dogan news agency reported, and three soldiers were killed in two separate attacks in a neighboring province, the military said.
Turkish F-16 jets carried out a 35-minute assault on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in Daglica, in Hakkari Province near the border with Iraq, whose northern mountains offer a relatively safe base for the insurgents.
The air strikes came after two soldiers were killed by a remote-controlled mine in the neighboring province of Sirnak. In a day of apparent tit-for-tat violence, shortly after the raids by F-16 jets, another soldier was killed and one wounded when militants attacked a guard post in Sirnak with a rocket-propelled grenade.
Violence has swept eastern Turkey since last month, when the outlawed PKK ramped up attacks against Turkish security forces and Ankara launched reciprocal air strikes against its fighters in Turkey and northern Iraq.
A senior EU official expressed concern the violence could jeopardize any efforts to end the PKK’s three-decade insurgency. The prospect of unrest in a country bordering both Iraq and Syria, focus of Islamic State activity, has aroused broader disquiet among NATO allies.
The deaths brought the number of Turkish security forces killed by the PKK since July 20 to at least 19, the worst bloodshed since a ceasefire agreed in 2013.
The PKK announced it was stepping up attacks in mid-July over what it said were ceasefire violations by the Turkish state. Violence has intensified since Turkey began an air campaign against PKK camps in northern Iraq on July 24, in what Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called a “synchronized fight against terror”.
Turkish jets have also hit Islamic State positions in Syria, and Turkey has granted permission to the U.S.-led coalition targeting the militants to use its air bases to launch further raids.
The Turkish Energy minister said the PKK had sabotaged the Shah Deniz pipeline, carrying natural gas from Azerbaijan, days after attacking an oil pipeline pumping crude to Turkey from Iraq.