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Police: Soccer match turns deadly in suspected PKK attack

By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert, CNN
  • A police officer and his wife were killed
  • Nine police officers were wounded
  • Clashes between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Turkish state have escalated over the last month

Istanbul (CNN) -- A pick-up game of soccer for policemen in the eastern Turkish town of Tunceli turned deadly Sunday night when suspected Kurdish militants opened fire on players and spectators.

A police officer and his wife were both killed in the attack, a local police officer said Monday, on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to give interviews to the media.

The officer said nine other police officers were wounded, while one of the attackers was killed in the ensuing gunbattle.

On Saturday, a separate deadly clash in a rural area of Turkey's mountainous Tunceli province resulted in the deaths of a Turkish army lieutenant and a sergeant, said an official from the provincial governor's office, who by convention is not named.

The bloody, 26-year war between guerilla fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Turkish state has escalated over the last month.

The Kurdish separatist movement has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks throughout the summer that have claimed the lives of more than a dozen Turkish soldiers.

On August 17, the Turkish military retaliated, launching a wave of airstrikes and artillery barrages across the border against suspected PKK camps in the mountains of northern Iraq.

The Turkish armed forces claimed to have killed more than 100 rebels in the ongoing cross border attacks.

The Kurds represent the largest ethnic minority in Turkey.

For decades, Kurds were the target of repressive government policies, implemented by officials who sometimes referred to members of Turkey's largest ethnic minority as "mountain Turks." Until just a few years ago, it was illegal to speak Kurdish on radio and television in Turkey.

The government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tried to improve relations by launching a state Kurdish language TV station in 2009. But tensions have escalated between Erdogan's government and the main Kurdish nationalist political party in recent months.

After winning a larger number of seats in June parliamentary elections, the main Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) boycotted the swearing-in ceremony for new lawmakers.

Kurdish lawmakers are protesting a decision by Turkey's electoral board, which disqualified a prominent Kurdish candidate from participating in the June election.

Riots have erupted periodically in Istanbul and other Western Turkish cities over the last six months.

Last Friday, a march organized by the BDP in Istanbul to commemorate "World Peace Day" disintegrated into a running two-hour battle between Kurdish youths and Turkish riot police.