DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Kurdish militants claimed responsibility for the assassination of two officials in Turkey's southeast and the country's prime minister said the insurgency had entered a new "heinous" phase in targeting the AK Party founded by President Tayyip Erdogan.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) said it had shot dead Deryan Aktert, AKP head in the city of Diyarbakir's Dicle district, in his office on Monday for his cooperation with the state in fighting the PKK, an organization listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
On Sunday, assailants killed Aydin Mustu, the AK Party's deputy leader in the Ozalp district of Van, a city 350 km (215 miles) east of Diyarbakir.
"The attacks on AK Party officials show that the terrorist organization has entered a new period of heinous attacks. They are enacting new orders to stage suicide attacks, assassinations against ruling party officials," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told his party in parliament on Tuesday.
Erdogan, also facing spillover of Islamic State attacks from Syria and the aftermath of an attempted military coup in July, has vowed to destroy the PKK following collapse of a ceasefire last year. In recent months, a huge army operation has forced PKK rebels from cities where the fighters had set up barricades and taken control of streets.
"We will continue our operations until our citizens no longer carry any security fear," Yildirim said, referring to Turkey's three-pronged effort to root out PKK militants, coup plotters and Islamic State along its border in Syria.
Over 40,000 people have been killed since 1984 in a PKK campaign for more political and cultural autonomy for mainly Kurdish areas in the southeast. Turkey fears the creation of a breakaway Kurdish state.
Suspected PKK militants set off a truck bomb, killing 15 people at a military checkpoint in Hakkari province on Sunday, officials said.
Police in Diyarbakir said they had also detained 55 officials from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and its sister Democratic Regions Party (DBP) on Tuesday in a counter-terrorism investigation.
(Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay, Editing by Ayla Jean Yackley and Angus MacSwan)