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 Attacks by Kurdish rebels raising tensions in Turkey

 Source : AP
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Attacks by Kurdish rebels raising tensions in Turkey 21.5.2005
The U.S. ally demands America and Iraq take on the guerrillas


SIIRT, TURKEY - During the national day celebration this week, helicopter gunships circled over Siirt's stadium and snipers stood watch on rooftops signs of the rising tension in southeast Turkey as Kurdish separatists rekindle an insurgency after a five-year lull.

Turkish intelligence officials say 2,000 fighters of the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party have recently infiltrated from their bases in the mountains of northern Iraq to carry out attacks.

The group, known as the PKK, is thought to have 3,500 more guerrillas still in Iraq.

So far this month, 10 police officers and soldiers have been killed in southeastern Turkey, and the rebels are vowing to step up their attacks and also strike at Turkish cities in the west that have been largely spared fighting during a 2-decade-old insurgency.

Turkey is demanding that U.S. and Iraqi officials crack down on Turkish Kurds who for more than a decade have taken advantage of instability in Iraq to run their rebellion from hideouts in the predominantly Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed his government's concerns during a meeting Friday with his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who said Iraq "will not allow any group to harm any neighboring country."

But Iraq's government is barely able to control its own cities. U.S. commanders, who are battling the Iraqi insurgency in the middle of the country, are stretched too thin to take on Turkish Kurds hiding in remote mountains near the frontier.

A further complication: The United States has long been allied with Iraqi Kurds, who are part of Iraq's struggling new government.

The fight in Turkey has brought instability to a key U.S. ally that strategically straddles Europe and the Middle East. And it has some Turks questioning just how strong their ties should be with a United States that is not moving against the rebels.

The rebellion, which began in 1984 and has caused 37,000 deaths, also adds a further kink to predominantly Islamic Turkey's bid for membership in the European Union, which is already complicated by questions of cultural and religious compatibility with Europe.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused Turkey's government of using brutal tactics in fighting the rebels, who were at their peak of power in the 1990s.

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights called for Turkey to retry rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, saying his 1999 trial was not fair.



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