Turkish soldier guns down three colleagues

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, Feb 5 (Reuters) - A Turkish soldier shot dead three of his colleagues on Tuesday, opening fire with an assault rifle at a military base in southeastern Turkey, security officials said.

The motive and identity of the soldier, who also wounded himself in the attack, was not immediately known. The incident took place in the Pervari district of Siirt province, a volatile area near the border with Iraq.

Similar incidents have taken place in Turkey over the past few years with officials and media citing the pressures of military life at a time of increased violence as the main cause.

Fighting between Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants and Turkish security forces increased last summer to levels not seen since the 1990s, resulting in heavy death tolls on both sides. Many civilians have also been killed.

Turkey operates a compulsory military service and with around 500,000 men under arms, it has the second-largest army in NATO. Most conscripts are called up for service at the age of 18 and have to serve for 15 months.

Turkey announced in December that its intelligence services had started direct talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, boosting hopes of bringing an end to a Kurdish insurgency that has raged for almost 30 years.

More than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed since the PKK took up arms against the state. (Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Angus MacSwan)