ANKARA: Turkish special forces crossed into northern Iraq to pursue Kurdish militants yesterday, a senior official told AFP, after the deadliest attacks by the rebels on the security forces in years left dozens dead. Fourteen Turkish police were killed yesterday in a new attack by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants as violence in the east of the country threatened to spiral out of control. That attack came two days after 16 Turkish soldiers were killed in a twin roadside bomb attack in Daglica in the southeastern region of Hakkari, according to the army, the deadliest strike in the current phase of the conflict.
In response, the Turkish air force pounded targets of the PKK in northern Iraq and special ground forces crossed the border in a rare land incursion. “Turkish security forces crossed the Iraqi border as part of the hot pursuit of PKK terrorists who were involved in the most recent attacks,” a Turkish government source told AFP. “This is a shortterm measure intended to prevent the terrorists’ escape,” added the official, without specifying the timing of the incursion. The Dogan news agency said two units of the Turkish special forces, supported by warplanes, were chasing two 20-strong groups of PKK militants. Earlier the official Anatolia news agency reported more than 50 Turkish jets were involved in the six hours of raids, killing “35 to 40 terrorists according to preliminary findings”, it added. The attacks had prompted Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to vow to “wipe out” PKK militants from the mountains of eastern Turkey
‘Plague of terror’
From late July, Turkey has staged air strikes and ground operations against the PKK in its strongholds of southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq in a bid to inflict a mortal blow on its capacities. But the PKK has hit back, killing dozens of Turkish police and soldiers in almost daily attacks, with the bloodier attacks marking a new intensification of the conflict. The 14 police were killed in the eastern region of Igdir in a bomb attack by militants on a minibus taking them to the Dilucu border post with neighboring Azerbaijan, Anatolia reported. A PKK spokesman in northern Iraq confirmed to AFP that the PKK had carried out the attack.
Meanwhile, one policeman was killed in the Tunceli region of eastern Turkey in an attack blamed on the PKK, Turkish television said. The violence has left in tatters a 2013 ceasefire aimed at allowing a final peace deal to end the PKK’s three-decade insurgency, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives. The PKK initially took up arms in 1984 with the aim of establishing an independent state for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, although lately the demands focused on greater autonomy and rights. Commentators have expressed alarm that the current situation increasingly resembles the worst days of the PKKs insurgency in the 1990s when attacks on this scale were commonplace. “We did not and will not abandon the nation’s future to three or five terrorists,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in defiant speech in Ankara. But he promised that “with God’s permission, Turkey, which has overcome plenty of crises, will get over the plague of terror.” — AFP