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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Turkish soldier killed in clash with Kurdish rebels

Istanbul, 7 Sept. (AKI) - A Turkish soldier was killed and another was wounded in a clash with Kurdish separatist militants of the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) close to the southeastern town of Eruh-Siirt. Before sunrise on Thursday PKK militants attacked the Turkish troops while they were changing their guard duty according to news reports. Private Ali Balikci, 20, was killed in the exchange of gunfire. He is the tenth Turkish soldier to die this month in clashes with the PKK in the country's southeast.

Another soldier, Private Suleyman Celik, who was seriously injured in the exchange, was being treated at Diyarbakir Military Hospital.

Kurdish militants have intensified attacks in recent weeks with a PKK offshoot, the Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan, saying it was responsible for bombings at popular tourist resorts last month which killed three people and wounding dozens of others.

At a funeral last weekend for some of the soldiers killed in the recent clashes, mourners lashed out at the PKK and at the West which they claimed secretly supports the PKK. But the Turkish government was also criticised for its perceived inability to curb the attacks.

Relatives of soldiers have also recently become more vocal against what they say is the practice of sending poorly trained or equipped conscripts - carrying out mandatory military service - to fight battle-hardened rebels.

Since 1984 more than 40,000 people have been killed in violence involving Kurdish rebels and the state.

The PKK is considered as a terrorist organisation by both the United States and the European Union.
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