Turkish soldier killed in land mine explosion in Iraq

A soldier was killed near the border with Iraq Friday after stepping on a mine believed to have been placed by autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels, the government-owned Anatolia news agency reported.

The death comes as the Turkish military has massed tens of thousands of additional troops in the region to fight Kurdish militants and prevent rebel infiltration into Turkey from bases in northern Iraq.

The soldier, a sergeant-major was killed in the explosion near the town of Cukurca, in Hakkari province, Anatolia said.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has been battling for autonomy for more than two decades in Turkey's southeast. The clashes have killed some 37,000 people since 1984. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Clashes have intensified recently and nearly 40 rebels, and some 15 soldiers have been killed in fighting since the start of the year, reports the AP.

I.L.