Turkey's Erdogan Says More Than 30 Kurdish Militants Killed in Raids

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan makes his speech during a rally against recent Kurdish militant attacks on Turkish security forces in Istanbul, Turkey, September 20. Murad Sezer/Reuters

ANKARA/DIYARBAKIR (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish military had killed more than 30 Kurdish militants on Friday in a cross-border operation he described as part of the rebels' "last struggle."

Erdogan, addressing village leaders at the presidential palace on Tuesday, did not say where the targets were. The military has been bombarding Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) positions in the mountains of northern Iraq as well as the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey following the breakdown of a ceasefire in July.

"More than 30 terrorists have been killed," Erdogan said, adding that security forces were continuing with operations inside and outside of the country. "These will continue for now but you should know that this is their last struggle."

On Tuesday afternoon two armed servicemen were killed and three injured by an improvised explosive device in the southeastern province of Hakkari, the military said in a statement blaming the PKK. The men had been providing security for a bomb disposal team dispatched to defuse another bomb.

The military launched operations against militants in the area on Tuesday, using drones, helicopters and armed units.

In Batman province, a bomb buried in the road went off as a police vehicle passed over it, killing a police officer and wounding eight others, security sources said.

The most intense fighting since the 1990s has engulfed the mainly Kurdish southeast and virtually scotched a peace process Erdogan began three years ago.

More than a hundred security personnel and hundreds of militants have been killed since the ceasefire broke down.

The cross-border operations against the PKK have so far been "very effective", Erdogan said, although he did not elaborate, except to say that more than 2,000 militants had been killed.

Elections Looming

Separately, the Turkish army said on Tuesday six PKK militants had been killed in operations carried out in the southeastern province of Hakkari overnight.

Security sources said a curfew had been imposed in mainly Kurdish southeastern town of Bismil, where a 9-year-old girl was killed late on Sunday when a rocket fired by Kurdish militants hit a house.

In the southern province of Adana, which also has a sizeable Kurdish population, two police officers were killed in an attack by suspected PKK militants late on Monday, local media reported.

At least 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK—deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union—launched its insurgency for greater Kurdish autonomy in 1984.

The escalating bloodshed has worsened political tensions ahead of a Nov. 1 parliamentary election, with Erdogan and the ruling AK Party he founded accusing pro-Kurdish lawmakers of being PKK sympathizers—something they deny.

It has also complicated the relationship between NATO member Turkey and Washington, which sees a related Kurdish militia in Syria as its chief ally in fighting Islamic State.

The government has accused the PKK of using the two-and-a-half year truce to stockpile guns, while the opposition has said the government ended the peace process after a pro-Kurdish party won enough votes in June to enter parliament and deprive the ruling AK Party of a majority it had enjoyed since 2002.