ANKARA - The Turkish army on Monday said the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) killed 16 of its soldiers in a roadside bomb attack at the weekend, one of the deadliest attacks carried out by the group.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed after Sunday's attack to "wipe out" the PKK rebels from their mountain strongholds, with no end in sight to the Turkish military's one-and-half month campaign against the Kurdish rebels.

Breaking a day-long silence over the toll, the army said the PKK staged a roadside bomb attack that severely damaged two armoured vehicles in the Daglica area of the southeastern Hakkari region close to the border with northern Iraq. "Sixteen of our brave comrades-in-arms were martyred," the army said in a statement, adding six others suffered non life-threatening injuries.

It was not clear why it had taken the army a day to publish the toll. Speaking after meeting Turkey's top general Hulusi Akar in Ankara, Davutoglu said there would be no compromise with the PKK. "These terrorists must be wiped out from the mountains; whatever happens they must be wiped out," Davutoglu said. "The mountains of this country, the plains, highlands, cities, will be not abandoned to terrorists," he said.

The PKK, known for sometimes exaggerating tolls of attacks on the security forces, said 31 Turkish soldiers had been killed in a combination of bombing and shooting attacks. Davutoglu said the claims of a higher toll were part of a "psychological operation" aimed at "demoralising the nation". "We must stand together against this black propaganda," he said.

The Hurriyet daily said 400 kilogrammes of explosives had been used in the attack and some 150 PKK militants had taken part, leading to clashes that lasted some seven hours. The army said it had retaliated with three F-4 warplanes and four F-16s launching air strikes on 23 PKK targets including caves and storage facilities.

Pakistan condemns terror

attack in Turkey

Pakistan has strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Daglica in Turkey’s Hakkari province on Sunday last in which several members of the Turkish armed forces had lost their lives and many others were injured. “Pakistan reiterates condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations|,” a statement by Foreign Office spokesperson said on Monday. The spokesperson reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong solidarity with the brotherly Turkish nation, which has faced a spate of terrorist attacks recently, resulting in the loss of civilian lives and security personnel. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families. We have no doubt that with its strong will and determination the Turkish nation would decisively defeat the scourge of terrorism,,” the statement concluded.

The PKK has been staging daily attacks against the armed forces as the military presses a relentless operation against the group in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq that began in late July. But Sunday's attack was by far the deadliest to be carried out by the PKK since the current fighting erupted. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement he "strongly condemned the atrocious attack that caused the martyrdom and injuries of our soldiers."

The violence has left in tatters a 2013 ceasefire aimed at assisting the search for a final peace deal to end the PKK's three-decade insurgency, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives. The PKK initially took up arms in 1984 with the aim of establishing an independent state for Turkey's Kurdish minority, although lately the demands focused on greater autonomy and rights.

The strike appears also to be the deadliest ever carried out by the PKK since a May 1993 attack when 33 unarmed Turkish soldiers were killed soon after the sudden death of president Turgut Ozal, who had championed the peace process.

As news of the attack broke overnight, nationalist Turks took to the streets in a show of support for the army, cutting a road between Antalya and Mersin in the south and scuffling with police in Gaziantep, television reports said. Turkey has been on heightened alert since Ankara launched a two-pronged offensive to bomb Islamic State militants in Syria and PKK rebels in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey.

Before the latest attacks, some 70 members of the security forces had been killed since July in strikes blamed on the PKK, while official media have claimed that at least 967 militants have been killed. The unrest comes at an explosive time in Turkey as the country prepares to hold snap elections on November 1 following June polls where Erdogan's ruling party lost its overall majority. Davutoglu said the elections would be held under "democratic conditions" and urged the country's political forces to stand "shoulder to shoulder" in a show of unity.

Riot police were called to disperse some 150 protesters who attacked the office of the Hurriyet daily in Istanbul's Bagcilar district, accusing the newspaper of misquoting an Erdogan TV interview. Selahattin Demirtas, the head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), curtailed a visit to Germany to fly back to Turkey in the wake of the Daglica attack and reports of a deadly Turkish military operation in nearby Cizre.

"Instead of spitting out hatred, we have to find a way out together from this disaster that is looming," he tweeted. The Turkish lira, already battered by political and security instability, fell to a new low against the dollar of 3.04, a 0.97 percent fall on the day.