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Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has vowed to "wipe out" Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters from their mountain strongholds after 16 soldiers were killed in a rebel attack.

"These terrorists must be wiped out from the mountains; whatever happens they must be wiped out," he said in televised comments in Ankara.

"The mountains of this country must not be handed over to terrorists. Every effort will be undertaken," he said.

The army said earlier that 16 Turkish soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack on Sunday on two military vehicles in southeast Turkey.

It was the deadliest attack by the outlawed PKK in years.

"If someone wants to push Turkey into a ring of fire, let it be known that the greatest strength is our unity around the security of our nation."

Davutoglu said the soldiers had been carrying out mine-clearing operations.

He vowed that Turkey's November 1 snap legislative elections would be held under "democratic conditions" and urged the country's political forces to stand "shoulder to shoulder" in a show of unity.

Some sources on social media had suggested that the toll was higher than 16 but Davutoglu said this was part of a "psychological operation" aimed at "demoralising the nation".

"We must stand together against this black propaganda," he said.

Source: AFP