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Five dead in attacks as Turkey battles PKK

AFP , Thursday 30 Jul 2015
Turkey, US, Syria
A United States Air Force cargo plane maneuvers on the runway after it landed at the Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts of the city of Adana, southern Turkey, Thursday, July 30, 2015 (Photo: AP)
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Five people died Thursday in new attacks on the Turkish security forces blamed on Kurdish militants, as Ankara stepped up its controversial campaign against the separatist rebels.

A new wave of violence included the killing of three Turkish troops that the army said was carried out by Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, the deadliest such attack on the security forces since the crisis began last week.

Ankara says it is fighting a two-pronged "war on terror" against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria and the PKK in northern Iraq, after a spate of attacks in the country.

But after initially targeting the IS group, the campaign has become increasingly focused on the PKK, with the Turkish air force bombing dozens of targets in an almost week-long campaign.

In apparent response, there has been a new wave of attacks on security forces in southeastern Turkey blamed on the PKK with at least 11 police and army members killed since last week.

Three Turkish troops, including an officer, were killed when PKK militants opened fire on their convoy in the southeastern province of Sirnak, the army said.

"Drones, helicopter gunships and commando units have been despatched to the scene," it said, adding that one "terrorist" had been killed in the clashes.

Meanwhile, a Turkish policeman and a civilian were killed by a gun attack late Wednesday in the Cinar district of the mainly-Kurdish Diyarbakir region blamed on the PKK.

Both the policeman and the civilian passer-by later died of their wounds in hospital, Turkish official media said. Another civilian was wounded.

Funeral ceremonies for slain police and soldiers have now become an almost daily event, broadcast live on national television.

NTV television said that overnight eight Turkish F-16s had been seen taking off from their base in Diyarbakir on possible new raids in northern Iraq. There was no immediate official confirmation.

The Hurriyet daily said Turkish intelligence sources believed as many as 190 PKK fighters had been killed in the air operations and 300 wounded.

But the government declined to give any toll. "This is not a football game but a fight against terrorism," a Turkish official told AFP.

The strikes have targeted camps and weapons stores used by the military wing of the PKK in the remote mountains of northern Iraq, including its headquarters on Kandil mountain. PKK targets inside Turkey's borders have also been hit.

The crisis erupted on July 20 when 32 people were killed in a suicide bombing blamed on IS jihadists in a town close to the Syrian border.

Kurdish militants, who accuse Ankara of collaborating with IS, responded by murdering two Turkish police in their sleep and saying they no longer considered a ceasefire that had largely been observed since 2013 to be valid.

A peace process for a final settlement aiming to end the PKK's 30-year-plus armed uprising for better rights and powers for Turkish Kurds is now under severe strain.

Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) has accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of orchestrating the crisis in the hope of calling early elections to make up for the ruling party's lacklustre performance in June 7 polls.

Speaking on a visit to China, Erdogan spat back at Dermirtas, telling him to "know his place" and referred to the presence of his elder brother Nurettin among the PKK fighters in Iraq.

"It is just an attempt to remove the black clouds above him (Demirtas)," said Erdogan, quoted by the Anatolia news agency.

"He (Demirtas) is a person whose elder brother has obviously been raised in the mountains," said Erdogan, referring to the PKK's Iraq bases. "He would run there if he found the opportunity."

As well as the air strikes, Turkish security forces have also launched major operations to arrest suspected members of IS, the PKK and other militant groups including radical Marxists.

According to the latest figures, at least 1,302 people have been arrested so far but the vast majority of those detained are suspected of links to the PKK.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Wednesday 847 people have been detained over links to the PKK and 137 held over links to IS.

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