ANKARA, Turkey – Kurdish rebels on Sunday detonated an explosives-laden agricultural vehicle at a military police station in eastern Turkey, killing two soldiers and wounding 24 others, authorities said, amid a sharp escalation of violence between the government forces and the autonomy-seeking insurgents.
Militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, used two tons of explosives to attack the station on a highway near the town of Dogubayazit in Agri province, close to Turkey's border with Iran, causing extensive damage to the building, the regional governor's office said in a statement. The wounded soldiers were hospitalized but there was no word on their conditions.
In a separate attack, one soldier was killed and four others were injured when their military vehicle hit a land mine believed to have been laid by the rebels in the southeastern Mardin province, the local governor's office said Sunday.
Violence has flared in Turkey in the past 10 days, shattering a fragile peace process launched in 2012 with the Kurds. The government has conducted almost daily airstrikes at PKK bases in northern Iraq while the rebels have attacked Turkey's security forces. The airstrikes began as the U.S. and Turkey announced the outlines of a deal to help push the Islamic State group back from a strip of territory it controls along the Syrian-Turkish border, replacing it with more-moderate rebels backed by Washington and Ankara.
At least 24 people have been killed in the renewed violence in Turkey, most of them soldiers.
Turkey's allies have supported Turkey's fight against the PKK, which they consider a terror organization. But they have also urged Turkey to exercise restraint and to return to the peace process. Turkey's campaign against the PKK is complicating the U.S. war on IS militants, which has relied heavily on Syrian Kurdish fighters affiliated with Turkey's Kurdish rebels.
Government critics and Kurdish activists accuse the government of reigniting the conflict in a bid to win nationalist votes and erode support for the country's pro-Kurdish party in possible new elections in the fall.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency has claimed that some 260 rebels were killed in the air raids against PKK targets in northern Iraq. The PKK has not reported on its casualties. Kurdish activists said, however, that the Turkish airstrikes had destroyed at least six homes in the town of Zargel on Saturday, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 12.
Iraq's Kurdish regional government called on the PKK to withdraw from Iraq's Kurdish territory to prevent civilian deaths amid the Turkish airstrikes, while condemning Turkey for bombing civilians. The regional government also called on both sides to resume peace talks.
Turkey said Saturday it had launched an investigation into the reported civilian deaths. It insisted that targets were attacked only after the military was fully satisfied that the areas were free of civilians. It also said the PKK at times uses civilians as human shields.