A ROADSIDE bomb explosion has killed 14 police officers in eastern Turkey after Turkish jets carried out airstrikes against Kurdish rebels and their camps in northern Iraq.
Kurdish rebels were suspected of detonating a bomb in the eastern province of Igdir as a police vehicle escorting a group of customs officials to a border gate was passing by, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. A number of other officers were injured in the attack.
Turkish ground forces crossed into northern Iraq for a “short-term” operation in pursuit of Kurdish rebels, a Turkish government official said yesterday.
The troops crossed the border as part of a “hot pursuit” of rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who were involved in a roadside bomb attack that killed 16 soldiers on Sunday, the government official said, adding: “This is a short-term measure intended to prevent the terrorists’ escape.”
It was also reported that two battalions from Turkey’s special forces crossed the border.
The attack which killed the 14 policemen yesterday comes amid a sharp escalation of violence between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK.
The customs officials were going to a border crossing between Turkey and the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhchivan, following the kidnapping of a group of customs officials by the Kurdish rebels. The officials were released unharmed.
Earlier, Andolu said Turkish jets had carried out airstrikes against a group of Kurdish rebels as well as the militants’ camps in northern Iraq. It said up to 40 rebels died in the overnight aerial operations.
The airstrikes were confirmed by Firat news, a website with close links to the rebels.
Anadolu said F-16 and F-4 fighter jets bombed a group of up to 25 PKK rebels believed to have carried out the bombing with improvised explosive devices on Sunday. The agency said the jets struck the rebels on their escape routes in Iraq and also targeted six rebel camps there.
Anadolu said 53 planes were involved in the strikes.
Protests denouncing the PKK erupted in several cities across Turkey on Monday soon after the military announced the 16 soldiers’ deaths. The pro-Kurdish political party said several of its local branches were vandalised during the demonstrations.
More than 200 people have been killed in the renewed fighting between the PKK and the security forces since July, including close to 100 soldiers and police officers.
The violence comes amid increased political uncertainty in Turkey. The country is holding elections on 1 November following the ruling party’s failure to form a coalition government after an election in June.