Bomb kills two Turkish soldiers in Kurdish area

The PKK rebel group threatened to no longer observe a truce following Turkish air strikes on its positions in northern Iraq

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Two Turkish soldiers were killed and four wounded in a car bomb attack on their convoy in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country, the local governor's office said Sunday.

The car bomb went off as the soldiers were travelling on a road in the Lice district of the Diyarbakir province late Saturday, the statement said, after the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel group threatened to no longer observe a truce following Turkish air strikes on its positions in northern Iraq.

Infographic: Bomb kills Turkish soldiers in Kurdish area
Infographic: Bomb kills Turkish soldiers in Kurdish area

Turkey has started striking Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, which helps the U.S.-led coalition, but also began attacking Kurds. The U.S. has been relying on Kurds associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to make progress against ISIS.

The United States condemned the attacks by PKK Kurdish militants in Turkey, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Twitter, adding there was “no connection” between Turkey’s strikes against the PKK and a deal to intensify the fight against ISIS.

“There is no connection between these airstrikes against PKK and recent understandings to intensify U.S.-Turkey cooperation against ISIL,” Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the coalition to counter ISIS, said on Twitter.

Additionally, the White House said it welcomed Turkey’s increased focus and efforts to fight ISIS, and called the Kurdish militant PKK in Turkey a “terrorist” organization.

The comments were made at a news briefing in Nairobi by a White House official during a visit to Kenya by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Earlier on Sunday, the White House had said that Turkey has the right to defend itself against terrorist attacks by Kurdish rebels.

White House spokesman Alistair Baskey strongly condemned recent terrorist attacks by the PKK, while also pointing out that Turkey is a NATO ally of the U.S.

Baskey said the PKK should renounce terrorism and resume talks with Turkey’s government. But he also said that both sides should avoid violence and pursue de-escalation.

Separately, Iran, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad, reacted Saturday to Turkey’s bombing of ISIS targets in Syria by urging respect for national sovereignty in the fight against “terrorism.”

Asked to comment on the strikes, foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said “all combat against terrorism should be done with respect to international rules and to the international sovereignty of states.”

“Any action that leads to the weakening of national governments can, in effect, encourage terrorist groups to fulfil their criminal actions,” she added.

Afkham also said Iran welcomes “international cooperation in the battle against terrorism.”

That may have been a reference to the fact that Turkey, which has long backed the rebellion against Assad, did not coordinate the attacks with the Syrian regime.

Iran is the principal regional ally of Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Tehran provides both financial and military support to him in his battle against the mainly Sunni rebellion.