Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Turkish troops kill three PKK members near Iraq border

The PKK has been fighting the Turkish government since the 1980s

Turkish troops have killed three suspected members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey. It was the first clash between the two sides since the end of a cease-fire in February. It took place in a rural area of Sirnak province, close to Turkey's border with Iraq, according to Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper.

Soldiers were in the area on a mission to prevent the infiltration of militants from northern Iraq, where the PKK has bases.

The clash will stir fears in Turkey of a revival of separatist violence ahead of the June parliamentary elections. Intelligence reports suggest that the group plans to launch a number of violent attacks, including in major urban areas, to try to manipulate voter opinion.

According to the World Bulletin, clashes generally increase in spring, as the warmer weather in the mountainous border region allows the militants to be more active.

The PKK declared a unilateral cease-fire in August 2010, and though they extended it in November, they called it off in February, citing a lack of dialogue with the Turkish government.

The group said, however, that it would not be the first to attack, and demanded an end to all military operations against it. It also called for the easing of prison conditions for its jailed leader Abdullah Ă–calan and the release of other detained Kurdish politicians.

Fighting in southeastern Turkey has lessened significantly since the cease-fire, but this most recent clash could be the start of a renewed period of violence.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU. It took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in 1984, sparking a conflict that has since claimed some 45,000 lives.

Sources: Hurriyet, World Bulletin, Today's Zaman

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