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 Turkish military says kills 49 Kurdish PKK rebels

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Turkish military says kills 49 Kurdish PKK rebels  23.10.2011  

October 23, 2011

CUKURCA, The Kurdish region of Turkey, — The Turkish military said on Saturday its forces had killed 49 Kurdish militants in the southeast over the last two days, during an offensive to avenge the killing of 24 Turkish soldiers by Kurdish fighters earlier this week.

The counter-insurgency operation against separatist rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), involving thousands of troops and into its third day, has focused on both sides of the mountainous Turkey-Iraqi Kurdistan border.

Ankara's reaction to one of the deadliest attacks on its security forces in a conflict that began       

A Turkish military Cobra helicopter release flares over a mountain in Cukurca, near the Iraqi Kurdistan region border in southeastern Turkey October 22, 2011 Photo Osman Orsal/Reuters
three decades ago has ignited speculation that Turkey could move to a full blown incursion to clear out PKK camps deeper inside Iraqi Kurdistan region.  

The military said it had spotted 35 militants during the early hours of Saturday morning in the Kazan valley in Cukurca, a district of Hakkari province located along the Iraqi Kurdistan region border.

Cukurca is where many of the 24 Turkish soldiers were killed when PKK militants attacked several mountain military outposts on Wednesday.

Turkish forces launched artillery raids, followed by air strikes against the militants during the night, Turkey's general staff said in a statement on its website, adding that troops had later discovered the dead bodies of 35 fighters.

The bodies of 14 other militants were discovered in the same valley nearby, seven of them in a cave, bringing the total number of fighters killed in the last two days to 49, it said.

While the military has not provided a number for how many soldiers are engaged in the operations, it said on Friday it had deployed troops from 22 battalions in five different areas, meaning there could be more than 10,000 troops involved.

In Cukurca, several military personnel and attack helicopters could be seen flying overhead but there was little military movement on the ground. A Reuters reporter was stopped by Turkish soldiers from entering the road leading to the Kazan valley.

Cukurca and the surrounding area is located high in the mountains above the Zab valley, a narrow gorge that cuts its way through the district. The Zab river winds its way along the gorge before flowing into the Tigris in Kurdistan region in Iraq's north.


In Kurdish town of Cukurca, no more than a few dozen houses clinging to the side of the mountain, residents dismissed the Turkish military offensive as a fact of life.

"We are used to these helicopters flying overhead every day now," said one man in his 20s as he sat down in one of the town's two restaurants.

"What can we do? We like both sides but we are constantly under pressure, we just want peace," he said referring to the Turkish military and the PKK. The man did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal.

Other residents suggested they were caught in the middle, saying they feared for their lives during Wednesday's PKK attack.

"The bullets came down like rain. We just laid down on the ground wherever we were and prayed we would be alright. The attacks went on for hours," another man said.

The PKK has stepped up attacks on Turkish security forces in recent months and Wednesday's raid was one of the bloodiest for Turkish forces. Turkey's President Abdullah Gul has vowed "great revenge" for the attacks.

While Turkey's strong response to the attacks may appease a large portion of the Turkish public, many Turks and Kurds have grown weary of the violence.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government has passed cultural and political reforms favouring ethnic Kurds, some 20 percent of the population, aimed at ending violence fed by grievances for which the Kurds have long enjoyed international sympathy.

Since it was established in 1984, the 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, sparking 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. 

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, Reuters | | Agencies


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