NEW: The ongoing operation is taking place near the town of Semdinli, in Hakkari province
NEW: 22 people are killed over the weekend in clashes at a military station
Turkey has been fighting the PKK since 1984
The U.S. and the European Union have labeled the PKK a terrorist organization
Turkish forces have killed 115 Kurdish rebels since launching a security operation in southeastern Turkey late last month, the country’s interior minister said Sunday, according to the semi-official Anatolia news agency.
The ongoing operation is taking place near the town of Semdinli, in Hakkari province. The area has been sealed since the start of the offensive on July 23, Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said.
The news came the same day the Anatolia news agency reported that close to two dozen people died over the weekend when rebels attacked a military station.
Six soldiers, two village guards and 12 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, were killed when the rebels attacked the station in the village of Gecimli in Hakkari province late Saturday night, the agency said. Two more rebels were killed in “pursuing operations,” raising the death toll to 22.
Fifteen other soldiers, one village guard and five civilians were wounded in the attack.
Turkey has been fighting the PKK since 1984. Initially, the movement sought a separate homeland for Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish minority. But now, the rebels say they are fighting for more linguistic and cultural freedoms.
Turkey, the United States and the European Union have formally labeled the PKK a terrorist organization.
This weekend’s attack is not the first time a military outpost in the area has been targeted. In June, eight soldiers and 10 PKK fighters were killed in the town of Yuksekova in the province.
Recently, there has been movement on restarting a peace process, with the head of Turkey’s leading opposition party signaling his willingness to work toward a resolution with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan recently announced that students could elect to take Kurdish language lessons under a new educational reform package.
More than 40,000 people, mostly ethnic Kurds, have been killed in the conflict.