Hundreds of Kurdish militants ended a hunger strike in jails across Turkey in response to an appeal from their leader.

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan called on his supporters to end their protest after holding a series of discussions with Turkish MIT intelligence agency officials.

MIT officials have held secret meetings with senior PKK representatives in Oslo in recent years and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in September more talks were possible.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in 28 years of fighting between Turkey and the PKK - designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

Mr Ocalan's call for an end to the hunger strike, which militants staged to demand an end to his isolation in an island prison south of Istanbul, was announced by his brother yesterday.

A newspaper said talks between Mr Ocalan and Turkish intelligence officials over the last two months had paved the way for his appeal to end the protest, which lasted 68 days.

The announcement was welcomed by the government, which had been increasingly worried any deaths during the hunger strike might provoke more violence.

Fighting between the PKK and Turkish forces surged over the summer.

Ankara has linked the renewed hostilities to the conflict in neighbouring Syria and accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of arming the PKK.

In the latest violence, five Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes with PKK fighters in Hakkari province near the border with Iraq, security sources said.