Turkish warplanes strike 17 PKK targets

TURKISH warplanes struck Kurdish rebel positions overnight in south-east Turkey, the military said yesterday, a day after heavy violence in the country left at least nine people dead.

Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan. Picture: Getty
Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan. Picture: Getty
Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan. Picture: Getty

The Turkish military said jets hit 17 targets of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, around the Buzul mountain and the Ikiyaka region in Hakkari province, which borders Iran and Iraq.

In further violence, Kurdish rebels attacked an infantry brigade command post in nearby Sirnak province, seriously wounding a soldier who later died in a hospital.

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On Monday, nine people, including five police officers, were killed in separate attacks in Istanbul and in the southeastern Sirnak province.

The outlawed Marxist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, which the government has on occasion linked to the PKK, claimed an attack in Istanbul – a shooting at the US consulate, which caused no casualties.

While the government blamed the PKK for that attack, it was also claimed by a small leftist group, the People’s Defence Units, on its Twitter feed.

Turkey has seen a sharp spike in clashes between security forces and Kurdish rebels in recent weeks. More than 50 people, mostly police and soldiers, have died during the renewed violence that has wrecked an already fragile peace process with the Kurds.

Turkish warplanes have raided PKK targets in Iraq and in southeast Turkey in tandem with airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria since late July. The main focus of the raids however, has been the PKK.

The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in south-east Turkey. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since it began in 1984.

Turkey has for the last couple of weeks hit targets of the PKK in its strongholds in the remote mountains of northern Iraq and south-eastern Turkey.

Kurdish fighters, some from the PKK, have secured significant victories against IS in Syria and Iraq.

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But the PKK say Turkey is using its campaign against IS as cover for taking on the separatists – something the Turkish government has denied. PKK leader Cemil Bayik accused Turkey of trying to protect IS by attacking Kurdish fighters.

“They are doing it to limit the PKK’s fight against IS. Turkey is protecting IS,” he said.

Turkey, like a number of Western countries, considers the PKK to be a terrorist organisation. Turkey has arrested more than 1,300 suspected supporters of IS and the PKK in the last month, including leftists of the banned DHKP-C Marxist group as part of a major crackdown on terrorist groups.

Yesterday, the United States consulate in Istanbul reopened for business just a day after two women opened fire at the heavily protected building.

No-one was hurt in the attack, which came just weeks after Turkey agreed to take a more active role in the US-led campaign against Isis.