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 Fresh Turkish strikes on Kurdish PKK rebels in Iraqi Kurdistan 

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Fresh Turkish strikes on Kurdish PKK rebels in Iraqi Kurdistan  19.8.2011    







August 19, 2011

DIYARBAKIR, The Kurdish region of Turkey, — Turkey launched a second night of air strikes on Kurdish guerrilla targets in Iraqi Kurdistan late on Thursday, as Ankara responded to a surge in activity by PKK separatists with its first military operation in the region for more than a year.

State-run broadcaster TRT said on its website Turkish warplanes had hit Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) camps in Qandil mountains, Northern Iraq. No further details were available.

The separatists use the border mountainous region as a sanctuary from which to launch attacks in southeast Turkey.

A Reuters witness earlier said at least 12 warplanes had taken off late on Thursday from an air base in the main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, in southeastern Turkey.       

Turkish F-16 jets prepare to take off from military airbase, in the Turkey's southeastern Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. Photo: Xinhua
The latest raids followed an air and artillery assault on PKK targets overnight on Wednesday that was Ankara's response to a surge in rebel action in recent months and an ambush on Wednesday that killed nine servicemen.

The PKK carried out two simultaneous attacks on Thursday night in Turkey's southeastern Kurdish Siirt province, security sources said.

Militants fired rocket launchers and rifles in an onslaught on a paramilitary gendarmerie post in Eruh, killing two officers and wounding four soldiers.

In the nearby district of Pervari, rebels wounded four civilians during similar attacks on security installations.

The Turkish General Staff was yet to make a statement on Thursday night's operation.

It said on Wednesday night that artillery hit 168 targets in the region before warplanes pounded 60 positions in two waves. Camps housing the PKK's commanders were among those targeted, security sources said.

"Our patience has finally run out. Those who do not distance themselves from terrorism will pay the price," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday. He visited the home of a soldier killed in this week's ambush on Thursday.

NEW HARDLINE STANCE

Erdogan's comments and subsequent major air operation indicate a return to a hardline stance in the 27-year-old fight against the rebels and an end to clandestine talks between the state and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

After a clear victory in June's parliamentary election, Erdogan vowed to press ahead with reforms addressing the 12-million-strong Kurdish minority's grievances. A wave of PKK attacks has brought an abrupt change of tone and heightened prospects of intensified conflict.

As well as continuing the air assaults, the armed forces may launch a ground incursion against the militants in Kurdistan region in Iraq's north, as they have in the past. Further legal action also could be taken against Kurdish politicians,www.ekurd.netcurrently boycotting parliament and accused of close links to the PKK.

Turkey's National Security Council, chaired by President Abdullah Gul, issued a written statement after a regular meeting on Thursday, saying it would adopt a "more effective and decisive fight in the fight against terrorism," local media reported. It did not elaborate on what those measures would be.

The air operation drew condemnation from the speaker of parliament in northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

"This is a clear violation of Iraq's sovereignty," speaker Kamal Kirkuki said. "We strongly condemn the shelling by Turkey and any other party on Iraqi soil."

The military operations were apparent retaliation for a PKK attack on a military convoy at Cukurca in southeast Turkey's Hakkari province on Wednesday. Eight soldiers and one member of the state-backed village guard militia were killed.

Last month, the PKK's Ocalan sent word through his lawyers that he had agreed with Turkish officials to set up a "peace council" aimed at ending the conflict. But the mood turned sour after the PKK subsequently killed 13 troops in the biggest attack since the PKK ended a ceasefire in February.

State talks with Ocalan ended in late July and since then his lawyers have been unable to visit him in his island prison near Istanbul. This week a court banned four lawyers from representing him for a year.

Since it was established in 1984, the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country,www.ekurd.netsparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous Kurdish region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.  
 

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