NYT : Turkey Attacks Kurdish Rebel Positions

Monday, October 29, 2007

Turkey Attacks Kurdish Rebel Positions

By SEBNEM ARSU | October 29, 2007

ISTANBUL, Oct. 28 — Turkey’s military on Sunday attacked Kurdish rebels in the southeastern province of Tunceli, a mostly Kurdish area that is a base for the separatist Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or P.K.K.

Special forces troops, supported by helicopter gunships, assaulted the rebel positions, according to the state-run Anatolian News Agency. The area was closed to traffic, causing disruptions along local roads, it said. Local news agencies said at least 15 rebels had been killed, though the military declined to confirm that number.

The mountainous area where the military operation took place is roughly 400 miles from the border with Iraq, where raids by Iraqi-based P.K.K. rebels have killed at least 42 people in the past month and led to increased tensions between Turkey, Iraq and the United States.

While Turkey has so far refrained from beginning a large-scale military incursion into Iraq, operations against the P.K.K. in its southeastern region have been taking place for several weeks, the government has said. On Friday, minor clashes occurred between the army and rebels in Bingol, a town in the southeast. The army said in a statement on Saturday that there were no casualties.

The military operations come before a visit to the United States by Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Nov. 5. Many political analysts view his meeting with President Bush as crucial before Turkey decides whether to send forces into Iraq to dismantle the P.K.K. Washington is strongly opposed to any military action by Turkey in northern Iraq.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters throughout Turkey marched against Kurdish militancy on Sunday, calling for an end to a conflict that has taken more than 30,000 lives since the 1980s.

Government officials have been calling for calm, saying the P.K.K. did not represent the more than 15 million Kurds in the country.

“The 70 million people living in this country are brothers, citizens of this country,” Cemil Cicek, the government spokesman, said Sunday. “We have no separation among us; let’s not give in to provocations.”