Reuters International

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkey's armed forces killed 23 Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters in the latest clashes in eastern Turkey, including three militants who died in an air strike, the general staff said on Saturday.

Security sources said warplanes and attack helicopters fired on a mountainous, forested area in the eastern province of Tunceli after military drones spotted a group of about 20 PKK rebels there on Friday.

The armed forces' statement said three of the militants were killed in the air strikes.

Thousands of militants and hundreds of civilians and soldiers have been killed since the PKK resumed its fight for Kurdish autonomy last summer, ending a 2-1/2-year ceasefire and shattering peace efforts.

Turkish warplanes have frequently struck PKK targets since the conflict revived, mainly hitting the group's bases in northern Iraq.

Security sources said on Friday that four Turkish soldiers were killed and two wounded when a bomb hit a military vehicle travelling in the southeastern province of Mardin.

Elsewhere, in the southeast, the army killed eight PKK fighters in Silvan, six in Nusaybin and three each in the towns of Sirnak and Yuksekova on Friday, Saturday's statement said.

The government has ruled out any return to the negotiating table and has said it will crush the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK took up arms in 1984.

(Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Helen Popper)

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