Three Turkish soldiers killed in PKK attack after new raids

AFP , Saturday 15 Aug 2015

Three more Turkish soldiers were killed on Saturday in an attack by members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in eastern Turkey, the army said, as authorities carried out new raids to arrest suspected militants.

The latest deaths bring to six the number of soldiers killed in the last 24 hours by Kurdish rebels, who have stepped up their attacks on Turkish security forces in an escalating cycle of violence that has left a 2013 ceasefire agreed by the PKK in tatters.

The soldiers were killed when an explosive device laid by PKK militants on a road in the Karliova district of eastern Bingol province was detonated, the army said in a statement.

"Three of our soldiers were martyred and six wounded," the army said, adding clashes were continuing in the region.

The attack in Karliova came after three other troops were killed late Friday in an attack by PKK militants in the Daglica area of the southeastern Hakkari region.

Ankara has launched a two-pronged "anti-terror" offensive against jihadists in Syria and PKK militants in northern Iraq after a series of attacks on Turkish soil, including a suicide bombing blamed on IS that killed 32 pro-Kurdish activists in the town of Suruc on July 20.

So far, the operation has focused largely on the Kurdish rebels, who have responded by waging a bloody campaign against the security forces.

Speaking in his ancestral hometown in northeast Turkey's Rize province, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that the fight against terror would continue "unabated," adding: "No one should test Turkey's strength, or they will pay a heavy price."

Turkish authorities carried out new dawn raids to arrest suspected IS and PKK members, with the official Anatolia news agency saying at least 84 suspects had been detained in several provinces, including Istanbul as well as Mardin and Gaziantep in the southeast and Van to the east.

Police seized a large number of explosives, Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers, Anatolia said.

Citing official sources, the Hurriyet newspaper said Turkish authorities had seized 30 suicide vests, some of them ready to be used, in recent anti-IS operations.

More than 2,500 people have so far been detained in raids targeting suspected members of the PKK, IS and the Marxist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C), a Turkish official said Saturday, the overwhelming majority from the PKK.

The official told reporters that 39 members of the Turkish security forces have died in attacks since July 20 and 40 civilians have been killed including the Suruc bombing.

The same official said Turkey is concerned by the advance of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria but that the Syrian Kurdish group is not on the "target list" of Ankara's current anti-terror operation.

The PYD's Kurdish fighters control large parts of northern Syria on the Turkish border, where they have for months engaged in fierce fighting with IS jihadists.

The PYD has "incredibly close links" with the PKK, which has waged a separatist-tinged insurgency in Turkey for three decades and is regarded by Ankara as a terrorist group, the official told reporters.

"The PYD is not on our target list. We are not going to attack the PYD as long as they are not going to attack Turkey."

But he added that Ankara still has problems with the group, accusing elements of being allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that these concerns have been presented to the United States as the two countries work to create a zone free of IS jihadists inside Syria. 

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