ANKARA, Turkey: Turkish security forces have killed or captured close to 500 Kurdish rebels in fighting in the past month, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday, renewing a call on the rebel group to lay down arms.
Erdogan said military offensives against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, would end only after the rebels lay down arms. The group is fighting for self-rule in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey.
The call comes amid an upsurge in violence between government forces and the PKK that has dimmed hopes for a resolution to the conflict which has killed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.
In the latest violence, suspected Kurdish rebels detonated a roadside bomb in eastern Turkey on Sunday, killing eight police officers. The military said last week it had launched a large-scale operations involving seven battalions - or several thousands of troops - near the border with Iraq, from where the rebels maintain bases and launch hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets.
Erdogan said some 500 Kurdish rebels have been "rendered ineffective" in southeast Turkey since mid-August, including at least 123 PKK fighters who were killed in fighting near the border with Iraq in the past week. An aide told the Associated Press that the prime minister was referring to hundreds of rebels either killed or captured by the security forces in the past month. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to reporters without prior authorization.
Turkey and its Western allies consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization.
Earlier, the leader of a pro-Kurdish political party called for a ceasefire by both sides and the start of dialogue to end the conflict.