ISTANBUL, Turkey — Fierce fighting flared Saturday between Turkish troops and Kurdish rebels after months of relative calm. Fifteen soldiers and at least 23 separatists were killed, Turkey's military said.
The military called in helicopters, fighter planes and heavy artillery after the Kurdish separatists struck an army outpost in southeastern Turkey early Friday. The fighting near the border with Iraq also wounded 20 soldiers.
Within hours of the attack, the Turkish military was aiming artillery strikes across the frontier.
Because Turkey's military is far better-equipped and stronger than the fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, the rebels' ability to inflict a large number of deaths in a fortified army position constitutes a significant propaganda victory.
News reports said two Turkish soldiers were missing, suggesting they might have been kidnapped. Rebels try to seize prisoners, knowing that such abductions fuel a sense of frustration and helplessness on the part of the Turkish public.
The fighting came days before Turkish lawmakers are to take up a measure that would give the army continued authority in the coming year to stage strikes across the border in Iraq. Late last year and in the early months of 2008, Turkish troops waged an intense campaign of cross-border incursions in an effort to root out the rebels.