Turkey’s military says 16 soldiers were killed in a Kurdish rebel attack against troops in southeast Turkey on Sunday.
A military statement on Monday said six other soldiers were wounded in the attack in the mainly Kurdish Hakkari province, which border Iraq and Iran.
Rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, detonated explosives killing soldiers who were traveling in a convoy. The attack prompted the military to launch air operations against dozens of PKK targets.
Earlier, Firat News, a website close to the rebels, claimed that 32 soldiers were killed in the ambush.
The renewed fighting between the PKK and the security forces has killed about 200 people since July, including around 85 soldiers and police officers. The fighting has derailed a 2 1/2-year-old peace process with the Kurds.
In a sign of the gravity of the attack on Sunday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu broke off a trip to Konya to watch a national football game and summoned an emergency security meeting in Ankara, the official Anatolia agency said.
“Two of our armored vehicles were severely damaged by improvised explosive devices left on the road,” the army said, adding: “Some of our brave soldiers were killed and others injured as a result of the explosion.”
Two Turkish F-4 and two F-16 warplanes were deployed to carry out strikes in a “heavy air campaign” against 13 targets controlled by the militants in retaliation, it added.
Many “terrorists” were killed in the airstrikes, Anatolia said, without giving a precise toll.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was “very sad” about the attack on the soldiers, telling the A-Haber channel in a live television interview: “A mine attack has been staged. There will be a very particular and decisive fight there.”
He added the attack happened during a “cleanup operation” against PKK militants.
The PKK claimed the attack as an “act of sabotage” in a statement on the website of its military wing, the People’s Defense Forces (HPG).
Davutoglu, who had watched Turkey defeat the Netherlands in a key Euro 2016 qualifier in Konya, was rushed in his motorcade to attend the security meeting with officials, including army chief of staff Hulusi Akar and spy chief Hakan Fidan.
The PKK has been staging daily attacks against the armed forces as the military presses an over month-long operation against the group in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq.