Sunday, June 20, 2010

PKK and Turkey: an old war flares up again

Wounded Turkish soldiers are evacuated

The battle between Turkey and the Kurdish rebels of the PKK has flared up anew in recent weeks after militairy operations against PKK-positions in northern Iraq which, according to the Turkidsh military, killed at least 130 members of the PKK. The military lost 43 personnel.
The escalation of violence followed a major air assault on May 20 on rebel positions in Hakurk region of the northern Iraq in which several warplanes bombed a large area to kill about 100 rebels.It was the largest air assault on the rebels since a 2008 ground operation into Iraq that saw many guerrillas return to bases along the border after Turkish units withdrew. The Turkish military says around 4,000 rebels are based just across the border in Iraq and that about 2,500 operate inside Turkey.
Also hundreds of elite commandos crossed into Iraq for a daylong operation to hunt down a group of rebels who were escaping after an attack near the border town of Uludere. Intelligence reports suggested that the rebel casualties, also in a coordinated air strike, were about 20.

The PKK said this month they had scrapped a year-old unilateral cease-fire and resumed attacks against Turkish forces because of military operations against them. The cease-fire had come as Erdogan's government worked on plans to boost Kurdish rights to help end the conflict. However, the process has faltered and it suffered a setback in December when the Constitutional Court banned the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) on charges of links to the PKK.

As a result of the renewed tension Turkish troops and Kurdish militants on Saturday again clashed in the Hakkari province in southeast Turkey, in a fight that killed eight soldiers and 12 rebels.Two more soldiers were killed when they trod on a land mine. The battle at Semdinli, near the border with Iraq, prompted the armed forces to hit Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets inside northern Iraq.
The PKK militants touched off the fighting with an attack on an army border unit at about 2 a.m. "Reinforcements were sent to the region and throughout the night support was provided to the conflict zone by attack helicopters and artillery. Separately, the Air Force struck targets identified in the northern region of Iraq," the Turkish General Staff said in a statement.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the PKK launched its insurgency in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic homeland in the country's southeast. The rebels say they now want greater rights and autonomy for Turkey's estimated 12-15 million Kurds.

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