Fighting in southeast Turkey kills 19

Fighting between Turkish soldiers and outlawed Kurdish rebels killed 19 people in the southeast of the country on Sunday, the local governor told the Anatolia news agency.

Six soldiers, two village guards and 11 Kurdish rebels were killed following an overnight rebel attack on an army post in a village in Hakkari province which borders Iraq, the governor Orhan Alimoglu said.

Another 15 soldiers were wounded.

The raid on the army post follows similar assaults in the Kurdish-dominated southeast which have prompted the army to launch an all-out offensive against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) bases in the area.

The Turkish ground and air operation, one of the biggest in years, was launched about two weeks ago to drive out the rebels in the town of Semdinli, also in Hakkari province.

About 2,000 soldiers are involved in the offensive, private NTV television reported Sunday.

"A serious and strong operation is under way in Semdinli," Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said last week.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

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