During the Turkish National Day celebration in the eastern city of Siirt this week, helicopter gunships circled over the stadium and sharpshooters stood watch on rooftops–signs of the rising tension in southeast Turkey as Kurdish separatists rekindle an insurgency after a five-year lull.
Turkish intelligence officials say that about 2,000 fighters of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) have infiltrated from their bases in the mountains of northern Iraq to carry out attacks. The group is thought to have 3,500 more guerrillas still in Iraq. So far this month, 10 police officers and soldiers have been killed in southeastern Turkey, and the rebels are also threatening to strike at Turkish cities in the west that have been largely spared fighting during a two-decade-old insurgency.
Turkey is demanding that U.S. and Iraqi officials crack down on the PKK in the predominantly Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed his government’s concerns in his May 20 meeting [in Ankara] with his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who said Iraq “will not allow any group to harm any neighboring country.”
The rebellion, which began in 1984, has caused 37,000 deaths. Human rights groups have repeatedly accused Turkey’s government of using brutal tactics in fighting the rebels. (AP, May 20)
See also our last blog post on the PKK resurgence. WW4 Report readers are eagerly awaiting the second installment of David Bloom’s first-hand travelogue from Turkish Kurdistan, in which he pledges to describe his visits to Ufra and Harran.