ANKARA (AP) -- Clashes between Turkish security force members and Kurdish militants in three mainly Kurdish provinces in southeastern Turkey on Thursday killed eight security force members and 31 militants, officials said.
A skirmish erupted near the town of Semdinli, in the province of Hakkari that borders Iraq, after the security forces spotted a group of rebels who were allegedly preparing to launch an attack, the military said. Six soldiers and two government-paid village guards aiding troops in the fight against the rebels were killed in the fighting.
An Interior Ministry statement said 19 rebels were killed in the clash as well as a wider, air power-backed operation launched to catch the militants.
Separately, nine rebels were killed in a clash in the province of Tunceli, while three others were killed in Sirnak province, the ministry said.
The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, have waged a three-decade-long insurgency in southeastern Turkey. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. The group is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Violence flared again in 2015 after the collapse of a two-year peace process.
In a speech in Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to press ahead with operations against the PKK.
"We will continue our struggle against them, until these terrorists are annihilated and are gone," Erdogan said.
The military said several rocket launchers, ammunition, hand grenades and an automatic rifle used by the rebels were seized during the operation near Semdinli.