Kurdish rebels and Turkish military exchange fire

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Kurdish rebels shot at a Turkish army base on the country's border with Iraq on Monday, prompting an army helicopter to return fire, the Turkish military said.

“A group of terrorists fired intimidatory shots at an army base... in the southeastern city of Sirnak” and the chopper returned fire in “self-defense”, an army statement said.

It was referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has been pulling out of Turkey since early May in line with a peace accord.

The army said a soldier was lightly injured in the exchange, by a ricocheting stone. It was not immediately clear whether there were any injuries in the PKK ranks, or why the exchange took place.

They were the first hostilities reported by the army since it entered into a truce with the Kurdish rebels, who have been leaving Turkey in groups under a peace deal Ankara reached with their jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

The 2,000 rebels in the border area said they would complete their retreat before the beginning of winter, marching through the mountainous border zone to their safe havens in northern Iraq, where their command base is located.

But the PKK, blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the West, said they would stop the retreat and return fire if they were attacked by Turkish forces.

No fatal clashes have occurred in recent months, the first such lull in years. Ankara agreed with the PKK on a peace accord in March to end the three-decade old conflict that has taken 45,000 lives.

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