N. Iraq Kurds urge PKK to leave as death toll mounts
Turkey has killed 260 Kurdish militants in a week-long air offensive on targets in northern Iraq, official media claimed Saturday, as regional Iraqi authorities said it was time the rebels pulled out due to growing concern over the civilian toll.
Ankara has launched a twopronged “anti- terror” offensive against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants after a wave of attacks inside the country.
But so far the bombardments have focused far more on the Kurdish rebels and a report by the official Anatolia agency of 260 alleged PKK militants killed was the first concrete indication of the scale of the casualties.
In the latest airstrikes on Friday, 28 Turkish F- 16s destroyed 65 targets of the PKK including shelters and arms de- pots, Anatolia said.
The heaviest airstrikes were on Thursday, when 80 Turkish aircraft hit 100 targets of the PKK, Anatolia added.
Without citing its sources, Anatolia said that among those wounded was Nurettin Demirtas, the brother of the leader of proKurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas.
“Up until now 260 terrorists have been rendered ineffective ( killed) and 380- 400 terrorists have been identified as injured,” Anatolia said.
Demirtas openly acknowledges that his elder brother Nurettin had gone to the Kandil Mountain in northern Iraq where the PKK’s military headquarters are based.
But he said Sunday he could not confirm the Anatolia report as Nurettin was no longer at Kandil Mountain. He is “resisting IS on behalf of the people,” said Demir-
tas, without giving further details.
The PKK’s insurgency for greater rights and powers for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, begun more than 30 years ago, has left tens of thousands dead. The current violence has shattered a cease-fire declared in 2013.
The presence of the PKK has long been tolerated in Kurdishruled northern Iraq and more fighters also crossed into the area from Turkey as part of the 2013 cease-fire.
Yet the PKK’s relations with the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish authorities in Arbil have been beset by tensions, while Iraqi Kurds have expanded economic cooperation and relations with Turkey.
The office of the region’s president Massud Barzani said in a statement Saturday that the PKK rebels should move out of the re- gion to prevent civilian casualties.
“The PKK must keep the battlefield away from the Kurdistan region in order for civilians not to become victims of this war,” it said.
Iraqi Kurdish officials said Saturday six people had been killed in a pre-dawn strike by Turkish war planes on the village of Zarkel and there have been reports of civilian casualties.
Kifah Mahmud, a Barzani adviser, told AFP that “if the PKK did not have bases inside the region, Turkey would not be bombing civilians,” he said.
A dozen police and soldiers have been killed in Turkey in attacks blamed on the PKK in the last 10 days and there was no-let up in the violence in the last 24 hours.
A Turkish soldier was killed Saturday in a mine attack in the Kars region of northeastern Turkey, NTV television reported.