Turkey sends tanks to Iraq border as Erdogan shuts down 15 media outlets
The Turkish armed forces have begun deploying tanks and other armoured vehicles to the Silopi area of Sirnak province near the border with Iraq, military sources said yesterday.
The sources did not give a reason for the deployment, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey was aiming to reinforce its troops there, saying Ankara would have a "different response" for Shi'ite militia groups if they "cause terror" in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar.
Photos from the military sources showed a long column of vehicles, including tanks, tank rescue vehicles and construction vehicles in single file on a dual carriageway. The deployment coincides with an Iraqi operation to drive Isil from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and after Iraqi Shi'ite militias launched a related offensive to push the jihadists out of the town of Tal Afar further west.
Ankara has warned against such a move towards Tal Afar, which is some 170km from Silopi and home to a sizeable ethnic Turkmen population with historic and cultural ties to Turkey.
Sirnak province, where Silopi is located, is also one of the main areas of conflict between the Turkish military and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, who have bases in northern Iraq.
The UN envoy in Iraq, Jan Kubis, warned that civilians in Mosul and surrounding areas "are once again in harm's way" due to ongoing military operations and Isil tactics of using them as human shields.
It also emerged yesterday that Turkey has closed 15 more media outlets and dismissed a further 10,000 civil servants over suspected links with terrorist organisations and US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for orchestrating a failed coup in July.
Executive decrees have ordered the closure of 15 more newspapers, wires and magazines, which report from the largely Kurdish south-east, bringing the total number of media outlets and publishers closed since the abortive putsch to nearly 160.
More than 100,000 people had already been sacked or suspended and 37,000 arrested in the unprecedented crackdown President Erdogan says is crucial for wiping out the network of Mr Gulen from the state apparatus.
Thousands more academics, teachers, health workers, prison guards and forensics experts were among the latest to be removed from their posts through two new executive decrees published on the Official Gazette.
Opposition parties described the move as a coup in itself. The continued crackdown has also raised concerns over the functioning of the state.
"What the government and Erdogan are doing right now is a direct coup against the rule of law and democracy," Sezgin Tanrikulu, an MP from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said in a Periscope broadcast posted on Twitter.
A Turkish court on Sunday formally arrested Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli, co-mayors of the largely Kurdish south-eastern city of Diyarbakir on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation after five days in detention, sources said.
Earlier, police used rubber pellets to break up several hundred protesters marching against their arrests.
The internet had been largely down in the city for several days, witnesses said.
Turkey's south-east has been rocked by the worst violence in decades since the collapse last year of a ceasefire between the state and the Kurdistan Workers Party.