Turkish troops on Sunday killed 15 separatist Kurdish rebels in a clash in southeastern Turkey, the private Dogan news agency reported.

The fighting reportedly occurred in the mainly Kurdish province of Tunceli, which is not near the border with Iraq where most of the recent clashes have occurred.

An official with the governor's office for Tunceli confirmed that Turkey's military was conducting a military offensive against the rebels at a rural area near the town of Pulumur, but would not provide any further details or confirm any casualty figures. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The government-run Anatolia news agency said the fighting began Sunday morning and the Turkish troops were backed by helicopter gunships. Security forces shut down a major highway leading to Pulumur it said. It did not mention any casualties.

Tunceli is some 550 kilometers (340 miles) northeast of the province of Sirnak and 650 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of the province of Hakkari, the places where most of the recent fighting with the rebels have taken place. Sirnak and Hakkari border Iraq.