Erdogan: Over 30 Kurdish militants killed in cross border raids

Turkish soldiers in a tank and an armored vehicle patrol on the road to the town of Beytussebab in the southeastern Sirnak province, Turkey. (File: Reuters)

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday the Turkish military had killed more than 30 Kurdish militants on Friday in a cross-border operation he described as part of the rebels’ “last struggle.”

Erdogan, addressing village leaders at the presidential palace, did not say where the targets were; but the military has been bombarding Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) positions in the mountains of northern Iraq as well as the mainly Kurdish south-east of Turkey following the breakdown of a ceasefire in July.

“Our security forces are continuing with their operations both inside and outside the country,” he said.

“We have had cross-border operations overnight and more than 30 PKK militants have been killed. These will continue for now but you should know that this is their last struggle.”

The most intense fighting since the 1990s has engulfed the mainly Kurdish southeast and virtually scotched a peace process Erdogan began three years ago. More than a hundred security personnel and hundreds of militants have been killed since the ceasefire broke down.

Elections looming

Separately, the Turkish army said on Tuesday six PKK militants had been killed in operations carried out in the southeastern province of Hakkari overnight. It also said it conducted air strikes last Friday in northern Iraq, killing another 19 PKK militants.

It was not clear if Erdogan was referring to the same operations as those announced by the army.

Security sources said a curfew had been imposed in mainly Kurdish southeastern town of Bismil, where a 9-year-old girl was killed late on Sunday when a rocket fired by Kurdish militants hit a house.

In the southern province of Adana, which also has a sizeable Kurdish population, two police officers were killed in an attack by suspected PKK militants late on Monday, local media reported.

At least 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK - deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union - launched its insurgency for greater Kurdish autonomy in 1984.

The escalating bloodshed has worsened political tensions ahead of a Nov. 1 parliamentary election, with Erdogan and the ruling AK Party he founded accusing pro-Kurdish lawmakers of being PKK sympathizers - something they deny.

It has also complicated the relationship between NATO member Turkey and Washington, which sees a related Kurdish militia in Syria as its chief ally in fighting Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The government has accused the PKK of using the 2-1/2 year truce to stockpile guns, while the opposition has said the government ended the peace process after a pro-Kurdish party won enough votes in June to enter parliament and deprive the ruling AK Party of a majority it had enjoyed since 2002.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
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