Kurd rebels and Turkish soldiers exchange fire: Army

AFP , Monday 3 Jun 2013

Turkish army says 'terrorists' fired shots at base in southeastern city of Sirnak, forcing return fire in 'self-defence'

Kurdish rebels shot at a Turkish army base on the country's border with Iraq Monday, prompting soldiers to return fire, the military said, in the first reported hostilities since a March ceasefire.

The army said "a group of terrorists" fired shots at the base in the southeastern city of Sirnak, forcing return fire in "self-defence".

The military was referring to members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has been pulling out of Turkey since early May in line with a peace accord.

A soldier was lightly injured in the exchange by a ricocheting stone, the army added. It was not immediately clear whether any fighters in the PKK ranks were injured, or why the exchange took place.

It was the first clash reported by the army since it entered into a truce with the Kurdish rebels, who have been leaving Turkey in groups under a peace deal Ankara reached with their jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

The 2,000 rebels in the border area said they would complete their retreat before the beginning of winter, marching through the mountainous border zone to their safe havens in northern Iraq, where their command base is located.

But the PKK, blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the West, said it would stop the retreat and return fire if it was attacked by Turkish forces.

No fatal clashes have occurred in recent months, the first lull in years.

Ankara agreed with the PKK on a peace accord on March 20 to end the three-decade-old conflict.

The PKK took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict in which some 45,000 people have died.

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