Wednesday 28 September 2016

Turkish special forces cross into Iraq to pursue Kurdish militants

Kelly Irwin

Published 09/09/2015 | 02:30

A guard of honour flanks the flag-draped coffins of Turkish soldiers killed in an attack by PKK militants during a ceremony at a military base in the eastern city of Van, Turkey, yesterday
A guard of honour flanks the flag-draped coffins of Turkish soldiers killed in an attack by PKK militants during a ceremony at a military base in the eastern city of Van, Turkey, yesterday

Turkish special forces have crossed into northern Iraq in a ground incursion to pursue Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants after a deadly attack on the army.

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Two units of the Turkish special forces, supported by warplanes, crossed into northern Iraq to chase in "hot pursuit" two 20-strong groups of PKK militants after an attack that left 16 soldiers dead on Sunday, the Dogan news agency reported.

"This is a short-term measure intended to prevent the terrorists' escape," Government officials said.

It came after at least 10 Turkish police officers were killed in a bomb attack on a minibus in an area bordering Armenia and Iran yesterday, a government official said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing in the province of Igdir, but it comes after months of attacks by PKK militants on soldiers and police officers in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast.

In the wake of the attack, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed not to abandon the country to "terrorists".

"We did not and will not abandon the nation's future to three or five terrorists," Mr Erdogan said.

More than 40 Turkish warplanes hit PKK targets in northern Iraq overnight, where the group has bases, in response to the killing on Sunday of 16 soldiers near the Iraqi border, the deadliest attack since a two-year ceasefire collapsed in July.

A security source said scores of PKK fighters were killed in the bombing raids. The PKK, which launched a separatist insurgency in 1984, is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and United States.

The renewed conflict, weeks before polls the ruling AK Party hopes will restore its majority, has shattered a peace process which Mr Erdogan launched in 2012 in an attempt to end the insurgency, which has killed more than 40,000 people.

It has also complicated Turkey's role in the US-led fight against Isil.

A Kurdish militia allied with the PKK has been battling Isil in northern Syria, backed by US air strikes. But Turkey fears territorial gains by Syria's Kurds will fuel separatist sentiment among its own Kurdish population.

Irish Independent

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