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PKK attacks: Turkey’s leader vows to ‘annihilate’ Kurdish rebels

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will not stop until the PKK is “annihilated” after the Kurdish rebel group killed 12 Turkish soldiers over the weekend.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will not stop until the PKK is “annihilated” after the Kurdish rebel group killed 12 Turkish soldiers over the weekend.

The PKK attacks in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern region come amid an escalation of violence after the perceived failure of the government’s attempt to solve the Kurdish problem politically, with a reform initiative to give Kurds more political and cultural rights.

Fighters from the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) on Saturday attacked a Turkish military outpost near the border with Iraq, killing nine soldiers. The Turkish military responded with helicopter fire, reportedly killing 12 fighters. Two more soldiers were killed Saturday in a mine blast that Turkey blamed on the PKK, and a PKK attack on a military outpost in Elazig Sunday killed one soldier, reports Bloomberg.

Mr. Erdogan spoke strongly Sunday at funeral services for the 11 soldiers killed, reports the Associated Press. “They will never win,” said Erdogan. “They will obtain nothing.”

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The BBC reports that Mr. Erdogan also called the attacks “cowardly” and said Turkey would not give in to the “spiral of violence” the PKK had initiated.

Turkey responded to the attacks by launching airstrikes against PKK bases inside northern Iraq Saturday.

The AP reports that they killed one Iraqi Kurdish girl and wounded two others. After those strikes, the PKK threatened to expand its reach, saying it would “take our operations to all Turkish cities” if the governmet does not stop its attacks, reports Agence France-Presse.

“Turkey wants to take us towards war,” the group’s spokesman, Ahmed Denis, told AFP. “She is not sincere in dealing with the Kurdish issue and doesn’t want to deal with this issue peacefully.”

Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports that the government warned Friday of increased PKK attacks in the coming weeks and months. It said it has killed 130 PKK fighters since March, while 43 Turkish soldiers have been killed. According to AFP, the escalating violence is hurting the government’s Kurdish initiative.

The prime minister on Friday charged the PKK was seeking to undermine the government initiative to boost Kurdish freedoms and investment in the impoverished southeast in a bid to peacefully end the conflict.

The so-called “Kurdish opening,” announced last year, has faltered amid an opposition outcry that Ankara is bowing to the PKK, as well as persistent rebel attacks and a judicial onslaught on Kurdish activists.

The Monitor reported that the government’s initiative included easing restrictions on Kurdish-language television stations and Kurdish language university faculties, and allowing towns to use their original Kurdish names.

What the PKK wants
The PKK was formed in the 1970s to press for the creation of an independent state for Kurds, who number about 30 million and inhabit parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Armenia. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the group has largely abandoned its called for an independent state and now would like to achieve some level of autonomy for Kurds.

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The group took up guerrilla tactics in the 1980s, and the US and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist organization. Roughly 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Turkey since 1984.

An op-ed in the Turkish English-language newspaper Today’s Zaman Sunday argued that the PKK’s use of violence has caused it to lose popular support, and the government’s initiative should not be sidetracked by the violence.

What must be discussed today is the new war launched by the PKK, which should not be an excuse for shelving the “initiative.” Otherwise, everyone will lose. Rather, the initiative must be fully maintained, without allowing common sense to be distracted by terror. Violence should not be allowed to have practical results, or any result at all.