Turkish soldiers have killed three Kurdish-separatist rebels in a security crackdown in the east of the country.

The operation was launched late yesterday after suspected militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party opened fire on a military patrol vehicle, wounding four soldiers.

Two other PKK militants were captured in the operation.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, has notably stepped up its attacks this year.

The army has launched a large-scale crackdown against the group in the east and southeast of the country and assembled troops on the border with Iraq, where the militants take refuge.

The PKK took up arms for self-rule in the Kurdish-majority southeast in 1984. The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives.