Clashes between Turkish security forces and autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels have claimed nearly 60 lives over the last few days in the southeastern Turkey and across the border in northern Iraq, officials said Tuesday.
More than 30 Kurdish rebels were killed overnight in a military operation in northern Iraq, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a meeting with dozens of district administrators.
Gov. Mustafa Buyuk said Kurdish assailants riding a motorcycle fired on a police vehicle outside a hospital in the southern city of Adana Monday night, killing two officers and then fleeing.
Turkey's military said six rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, were killed Monday in a clash with security forces in Hakkari province, near the border with Iraq.
At least 19 others were killed in airstrikes Friday conducted by Turkish jets against suspected PKK targets in northern Iraq's Gara region, a military statement said Tuesday, without elaborating. The reports of PKK deaths couldn't be verified independently.
Turkey's security forces are battling the rebels in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast while Turkish jets strike PKK targets in northern Iraq. The fighting between the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies, resumed in July.
Since then, an estimated 150 Turkish officers and 2,000 rebels have been killed, Erdogan said.
The escalating bloodshed has worsened political tensions before Nov. 1 parliamentary elections, with Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) he founded accusing pro-Kurdish lawmakers of being PKK sympathizers — a charge they have denied.
Critics accuse Erdogan of reigniting the fighting, after more than two years of peace efforts, to rally nationalist votes around the AKP and discredit a pro-Kurdish party whose electoral gains in June deprived his party of a parliamentary majority.
Erdogan has vehemently denied the accusation and said the violence flared because the PKK broke a cease-fire agreement and stepped up attacks against Turkish security forces.
The surge in violence has complicated the relationship between NATO members Turkey and the United States, which sees a related Kurdish force in Syria as its chief ally in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.