A Turkish minister says Kurdish rebels have detonated a bomb in eastern Turkey, killing at least five soldiers inside a military vehicle.

Government minister Ismet Yilmaz said the soldiers were killed Tuesday in the attack in Van province, which borders Iran. Yilmaz, the former defense minister, was speaking to reporters before taking up his new position as education minister in Turkey's new government.

Turkey's military said it immediately launched an operation against the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, by sending attack helicopters, reconnaissance planes and reinforcements to the area.

Turkish security forces and Kurdish rebels have been locked in conflict since the collapse of a cease-fire last summer. More than 450 security force members have died in the fighting since then.