Turkey bombs Kurdish militants in Iraq, declares curfew in south-east as clashes erupt

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed Ankara would not step back in its crackdown on the rebels.
Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed Ankara would not step back in its crackdown on the rebels.PHOTO: AFP

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkey bombed Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq on Tuesday (April 5) and declared a curfew in a south-eastern town after a rocket attack, as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed Ankara would not step back in its crackdown on the rebels.

Gunfire rang out through the night in Silopi, near the Iraqi border, where the curfew was imposed after one police officer was killed and four were wounded when a rocket hit their armoured vehicle, security sources said.

In Iraq, Turkish F-16 and F-4 warplanes destroyed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) ammunition stores and shelters overnight in the mountainous Qandil area, where the group is based, the army said. It also said 15 PKK militants had been killed in south-east Turkey on Monday.

The conflict, at its most intense for two decades, is a major challenge for Davutoglu, who has been promoting a redevelopment plan for the mainly Kurdish south-east after months of fighting.

Pro-Kurdish politicians say Ankara should focus instead on reviving peace talks launched in 2012 with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan but President Tayyip Erdogan ruled out such a move on Monday, vowing to stamp out the insurgency.

Davutoglu reinforced that message in a speech on Tuesday. "There will be no turning back in the fight against terror,"he told lawmakers from his ruling AK Party. "Turkey's policy in the peace process was correct and its anti-terror operation is correct. Our people have given great support to both processes."

In Silopi, local authorities declared a curfew from 4.30am (9.30am Singapore time) in an announcement delivered by loudspeaker from minarets and police vehicles, witnesses said.

In the town of Nusaybin near the Syrian border, which has been under curfew for three weeks, a PKK rocket attack killed an army major and another officer on Monday, security sources said.

Erdogan said last week that, since July, 355 members of the security forces had been killed and 5,359 militants "neutralised", a term usually meaning "killed".

According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TIHV), at least 310 civilians have been killed during the various curfews imposed in parts of the region between August and mid-March.

It said 355,000 people had had to leave their homes as a result of the fighting, which has caused extensive damage in towns such as Cizre, Silopi, Nusaybin and Diyarbakir's Sur district, surrounded by Unesco-listed Roman-era walls.

More than 40,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 1984. The PKK, which says it is fighting for autonomy for Kurds, is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.