updated 4/10/2008 1:53:55 PM ET 2008-04-10T17:53:55

Turkish troops have killed 13 Kurdish rebels in clashes in eastern Turkey, the military said Thursday.

Eleven rebels died near the town Nazimiye in eastern Tunceli province, and the two others near the town of Hani in Diyarbakir province, the military said. It did not say when the clashes took place, but anti-rebel operations have been under way in the region since the weekend.

The conflict between autonomy-seeking Kurdish guerrillas and the government has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people since the guerrillas took up arms in 1984.

Turkish military launched a ground assault against Kurdish rebel camps inside Iraq in February and there has been sporadic clashes along the border and inside Turkey since then.

Meanwhile, a Turkish court sentenced a Kurdish politician, Leyla Zana, to two years in prison Thursday for speaking respectfully of the imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

Zana, a former lawmaker, has already spent 10 years in prison for links to separatist Kurdish guerrillas.

The court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir convicted Zana of making propaganda for the separatist group by calling Ocalan one of the leaders of the Kurds in a speech last year. Zana was expected to appeal the sentence.

Zana and her colleagues were ejected from Parliament in 1994 amid an insurgency by Kurdish separatists. Zana faces at least six other possible lawsuits for speeches in which she allegedly praised Ocalan and his rebel group.

Kurds are not recognized as an official minority in Turkey and are denied rights granted to other minority groups. Under EU pressure, Turkey has granted Kurds limited rights for broadcasts and education in the Kurdish language, but critics say the measures do not go far enough.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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