Reuters International

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish security forces have killed 417 Kurdish militants since late August, the army said on Monday, a day after a truck bomb attack on a military checkpoint in southeast Turkey killed 18 people.

The blast was one of the deadliest recent attacks in the region, near the border with Iraq and Iran where much of the army's conflict with the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is focused.

The military said in a statement the PKK's ability to stage attacks had been limited and its winter preparations disrupted, prompting it to focus on attacks with improvised explosive devices and suicide bomb attacks targeting civilians.

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.

"The operations will continue with the same determination until the last terrorist has been neutralised," it added.

Sunday's bombing followed a bomb attack in Istanbul on Thursday claimed by a PKK offshoot which wounded 10 people near a police station in Istanbul.

Two suspected PKK militants preparing a car bomb attack detonated explosives and killed themselves on Saturday near Ankara in a stand-off with police, authorities said.

Also on Saturday, eight PKK fighters were killed in a clash in Hakkari and four civilians were killed by police gunfire in the town of Yuksekova near the Iranian border.

The PKK, which launched its separatist insurgency in 1984, is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

The group's two-year ceasefire collapsed in July last year and the violence has subsequently risen to levels not seen since the height of the conflict in the 1990s.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans)


 Reuters International