N. Iraq Kurds urge PKK to leave as death toll mounts

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY STU­ART WIL­LIAMS

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.

Long Tol­er­ated

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.

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