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Turkish forces kill at least 7 Kurdish militants in continued violence

Clashes come days after country's Kurdish community stages defiant street protests.

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A Kurdish man holds up a flag of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) during Noruz spring festival in the Lebanese capital Beirut on March 21, 2012. ( Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish officials said seven Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters were killed near Turkey's Iraqi and Syrian borders today following the launch of a new government operation meant to put down the rebels' nearly 30-year armed insurrection, reported Reuters

The Kurdish rebel group has been locked in conflict over autonomy with Turkey since 1984, resulting in violence that has taken tens of thousands of lives. Turkey and much of the international community consider the group a terrorist organization. 

Turkish officials told BBC today that government forces attacked a PKK hideout in southeastern Turkey, where the government on Tuesday began its largest anti-rebel operation so far this year, according to Agence-France Press (AFP)

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Related clashes between militants and government forces in the same southeastern Simak province on Wednesday left at least five Turkish policemen dead, reported The Wall Street Journal

The new Turkish military operation, which AFP said involves an unprecedented number of special police forces, comes amid increased activity on the part of the PKK, according to BBC correspondents

Today's violence also comes days after Turkey's Kurds defied protest bans with street rallies marking the Zoastrian spring celebration of Noruz, or New Year.

Reuters reported Turkish forces using teargas and water cannon to quell the demonstrations.

The move comes amid escalating tensions between the Turkish state and its 12- to 15-million-strong Kurdish minority, a group that makes up some 20 percent of Turkey's population.

In January, Turkish police launched a sweeping raid meant to stem the influence of the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, over fears of ties to the PKK.

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Ankara also accuses the group of attempting to establish a shadow Kurdish government, but Kurdish activists say the charges are just an excuse for political and social oppression. 

The KCK cases date back to 2009 and have led to the detainment of over 4,000 people, most of them of Kurdish origin, including academics, journalists, activists, and lawyers. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/turkey/120322/turkish-forces-kill-at-least-7-kurdish-militants-continue