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PKK warns Turkey rebels will 'escalate the war': BBC

AFP , Monday 25 Apr 2016
Turkey
People hold national flags and posters of Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk as they rally to condemn terrorism and to support the Turkish security forces fighting Kurdish rebels in the country's southeast, on April 24, 2016 in Ankara (Photo: AFP)
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The Kurdish rebel PKK movement is ready to step up its fight against Turkey in response to Ankara's blistering military campaign, its leader warned in a BBC interview released Monday.

Since the collapse of a two-year ceasefire with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) last year, Turkish government forces have been carrying out operations against the group in the southeast of the country.

PKK leader Cemil Bayik said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was "escalating this war".

"The Kurds will defend themselves to the end, so long as this is the Turkish approach -- of course the PKK will escalate the war," he told the British broadcaster.

Erdogan said this month that 355 members of the security forces had been killed in fighting as well as over 5,000 PKK members -- although this could not be independently verified.

The PKK has been blamed for a string of attacks in Turkey in recent months, while two bombings in Ankara this year were claimed by a group calling itself the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a radical splinter group of the rebel movement.

Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for the Turkish presidency, on Monday criticised BBC for the interview with the PKK leadership, saying it was not journalism.

"It is nothing other than indirectly aiding terror propaganda," he said at a weekly press conference.

He asked what the reaction would be if a news agency interviewed Al-Qaeda jihadists after the London underground bombing in 2005.

The PKK is designated a terror organisation by Turkey, the EU and the United States.

Its rebels are accused of trying to create a separate Kurdish state within Turkey -- but Bayik denied it.

"We don't want to separate from Turkey and set up a state. We don't want to divide Turkey. We want to live within the borders of Turkey on our own land freely... The struggle will continue until the Kurds' innate rights are accepted," he said.

The PKK was ready to escalate the conflict "not only in Kurdistan, but in the rest of Turkey as well", he added.

Erdogan "wants the Kurds to surrender. If they don't surrender, he wants to kill all Kurds. He says this openly - he doesn't hide it," Bayik said.

The PKK launched a bloody insurgency against the Turkish government in 1984 seeking independence, beginning a decades-long fight for greater autonomy and rights for Kurds which has left 40,000 dead.

It later watered down its demands to seek instead more autonomy with cultural and language rights. Jailed PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan called a truce in March 2013, but tensions over the Syrian conflict kickstarted the violence last year.

Erdogan has proposed stripping Turkish citizenship from supporters of Kurdish rebels and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is trying to alter Turkey's constitution, to allow prosecutions of pro-Kurdish lawmakers accused of "terrorist propaganda".

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