7 Turkish soldiers killed in blast blamed on PKK

Turkish soldiers killed by roadside bomb blamed on Kurdish separatist group as army launches 'wide-scale' operation to catch perpetrators.

ANKARA - Seven Turkish soldiers were killed and three others were wounded after a roadside bomb in the southeastern province of Batman was detonated by Kurdish militants, security sources said on Thursday.

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants detonated the improvised explosive during the passage of a military convoy in the Gercus region of the province, the local governor's office said. An operation was launched to capture the perpetrators, it said.

Numan Kurtulmus, a deputy chairman of Turkey's ruling party, said the soldiers, who were inside an armored military vehicle, were on their way to protect a construction site in the region.

Earlier, the state-run Anadolu agency said they were traveling to carry out operations against the rebel group.

Four of the soldiers were killed at the site while three others died of their wounds while hospitalized.

The agency said the military had launched a "wide-scale" operation, backed by air power, to apprehend the assailants.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by the United States, Turkey and the European Union, has waged an insurgency against the state since the 1980s. Violence in the largely Kurdish southeast has escalated since the collapse of a ceasefire in 2015.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since it started in 1984.

Separately, the Turkish military said 13 PKK militants were killed in air strikes in northern Iraq's Avasin-Basyan and Zap regions and in Turkey's southeastern province of Siirt in air strikes over the past two days.

Turkey has in recent months carried out strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq, especially its stronghold in the Qandil mountains, where Ankara has also threatened to carry out a ground offensive.