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Clashes between Turkish army and Kurdish militants

Four Turkish soldiers have been injured in clashes between the army and Kurdish militants in the far east of the country. The incident has dealt a blow to the fragile peace process.

Turkey sent extra troops, reconnaissance planes and armed helicopters into its eastern Agri province on Saturday after four soldiers were wounded in clashes with more than two dozen rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), according to the Turkish military.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the PKK of seeking "to dynamite the peace in our country and undermine the peace process."

The unrest near the Iranian border occurred amid peace efforts after a three-decade conflict that killed 40,000 people. Ankara and the PKK agreed to a ceasefire in 2013. In February, the party's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan (photo) called on militants to lay down their arms.

The PKK initially fought for independence for Turkey's Kurds but later softened its demands to seek greater rights and autonomy for the Kurdish minority.

Top PKK commander Cemil Bayik told German media last week that the organization did not want to fight Turkey anymore. He also apologized to Germany for violent protests of the PKK on German territory in the 1990s.

However, the fragile peace process is strained ahead of the parliamentary elections in June. Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), which acts as an intermediary between the government and the PKK, called the clashes near the Iranian border "a sad and worrying development".

das/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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