ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish security forces have killed 417 Kurdish fighters since late August, helping disrupt the militants’ attack plans in the build-up to winter, the army said on Monday.
The announcement came a day after suspected Kurdish militants set off a truck bomb, killing 15 people at a military checkpoint in Hakkari province, a region bordering Iran and Iraq that has borne the brunt of the conflict with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Earlier reports had put the death count from one of the southeast region’s deadliest recent attacks at 18. There has not yet been a claim of responsibility for the bombing - the PKK usually issues such statements more than a day after an event.
A two-year ceasefire with the PKK collapsed in July last year, adding to the turmoil in a region already struggling with the civil war in neighbouring Syria and the rise of Islamic State there and in Iraq.
The PKK, which launched its separatist insurgency in 1984, is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union - a label it rejects.
The military said Turkish warplanes had carried out air strikes against PKK targets in the Zap region of northern Iraq around midday (0900 GMT) on Sunday, after news of the truck bomb emerged, destroying PKK gun positions and shelters.
Overall operations had limited the PKK’s ability to stage attacks, forcing the militants to focus on using improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers, the military said.
“The operations will continue with the same determination until the last terrorist has been neutralised,” it added.
Since Aug. 29, 417 PKK militants have been killed, 61 have been wounded, 41 have surrendered and 18 have been captured during a campaign which the military described as “the most effective and comprehensive of recent years”.
It said 88 members of the Turkish security forces have been killed and 152 wounded during the same period.
Turkey has been hit by a series of bomb attacks in the last year blamed on both Kurdish and Islamic State militants.
On Monday, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd in Ankara gathering to commemorate more than 100 victims of a suicide bomb attack blamed on Islamic State at the city’s train station a year ago, detaining some people, a Reuters witness said.
Authorities said only relatives of the victims would be allowed into the area, according to media reports.
In the southeast’s Van province, PKK militants shot dead a local official from the ruling AK Party at his home in the Ozalp district on Sunday night, the provincial governor’s office said.
The weekend violence followed a bomb attack claimed by a PKK offshoot which wounded 10 people near an Istanbul police station on Thursday. Two days later, two suspected PKK militants blew themselves up near Ankara in a stand-off with police.
In the course of the 32-year-old insurgency, PKK attacks have conventionally dwindled in the winter months when the militants seek shelter due to harsh conditions in the mountainous southeastern region.
Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Mert Ozkan in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Heavens