The Turkish army entered Tuesday on Iraqi soil for the first time in four years after a series of attacks by rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have killed more than 30 soldiers and policemen and a dove little violence in Turkey.
Turkish soldiers prepare the coffins of their brothers in arms killed in a PKK attack before a ceremony in their honor at the Van military airport, September 8.
Two days after the first ambush with explosives in which 16 soldiers died in Daglica (southeast), the PKK has carried out a similar operation on Tuesday at dawn against a police minibus, this time in the province of Igdir, bordering borders with Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan, by this time 14 deaths.
Since Sunday night, the F-16 and F-4 Turkish air force pounded repeatedly rear bases of the rebel movement in the mountains of northern Iraq and members of the special forces entered Iraq.
“The Turkish security forces crossed the Iraqi border in the pursuit of the right to PKK terrorists who committed the recent attacks,” told AFP a Turkish government source, without specifying the duration of the operation.
“This is a short-term measure to prevent the escape of terrorists”, however, assured that source who requested anonymity.
Air strikes and special forces raid killed “almost 100 terrorist” PKK, according to the Dogan news agency quoted military sources.
Previous incursion of Turkish troops on Iraqi soil, a common phenomenon in the 1990s against the rear bases of the Kurdish rebel movement in the mountains, dating back to 2011.
In a forceful speech, the Islamic-conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Tuesday to rid his country of the PKK.
“We did not give up and we will not abandon this nation three or five terrorists,” Erdogan exclaimed. “God willing, Turkey, which has overcome many crises, manage to get rid of the plague of terrorism,” he insisted.
His prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu has shown the same firmness in Van (East) where he participated in a ceremony in honor of the 16 soldiers killed in Daglica.
“For the unity of this nation, of this country, each responsible for each of these bloodbaths will report” thundered Mr. Davutoglu before the coffins of the “martyrs”, according to the official terminology, covered with the Turkish flag .
The operation carried out by the PKK in Daglica was the deadliest since the resumption there nearly two months of clashes between the army and rebel movement that shattered the peace talks initiated in autumn 2012 to put an end to a conflict which have about 40 000 deaths since 1984.
In late July, the Turkish government ordered air strikes against PKK bases in retaliation for rebel attacks against its security forces. Violence is since daily. Tuesday again, a policeman was killed in Tunceli (eastern).
The PKK but Tuesday it has released a group of 20 customs officers and Turkish workers of a construction company who were kidnapped in eastern Turkey there nearly a month. They had to return home in the evening.
According to the last count of the favorable press in the government, the clashes resulted in the death of a hundred soldiers or police officers and a thousand rebels.
The latest PKK attacks have raised tensions with the Kurdish community in many cities in Turkey. Some 20% of 76 million Turks of Kurdish origin and live mainly in the southeast.
The main pro-Kurdish party offices of Turkey (HDP, the Democracy Party of Peoples), considered close to the PKK, have been targeted by protests or attacks in a number of cities.
Its leader, Selahattin Demirtas, has been called a “killer” in the daily Yeni Safak one favorable to the government, although he condemned the attack in Daglica. “Kurds, Turks, tighten the ranks. Peace is the best medicine, “insisted Mr. Demirtas.
This cycle of violence occurs less than two months early parliamentary elections called by the President Erdogan for 1 November.
On June 7 poll, the AK Party lost the absolute majority it had 12 years in Parliament. Erdogan hopes his party will find it in November to establish a strong presidency.
On Monday, the opposition accused him vehemently to blow on the embers of the Kurdish conflict to satisfy his political ambitions.
“In democracies, the only place to settle accounts is the ballot box, the elections,” Erdogan told them Tuesday. “I think on 1 November, our people will require certain they render accounts of what happened,” he added.