Kurdish rebels kill 13 soldiers in SE Turkey

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TUNCELI, Turkey, Oct 7 (Reuters) Kurdish separatist rebels shot dead 13 soldiers on Sunday in a gunbattle in the southeastern Turkish province of Sirnak, Turkish security officials said.

They were shot after the Turkish military killed a member of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) earlier in the day in fighting in the restive province.

Pockets of intense fighting between Kurdish separatists and the army have continued in the southeast as the military steps up operations in the region before winter, when harsh conditions slow down the rebels' movement.

Turkish helicopters hit rebel positions after the soldiers were killed, security officials, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

Last week, PKK members stopped a minibus in the same province and killed 12 passengers. A Turkish soldier was also killed in the region yesterday.

Ankara blames the outlawed PKK for the death of more than 30,000 people since 1984, when the group began an armed struggle for a Kurdish homeland in Turkey's southeast.

REUTERS PDT AS0009

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