Kurdish Militants Call Off Truce with Turkey

Two-year-old truce between Turkey and Kurdish PKK seems to be over after attacks and mass arrests.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Kurdish demonstrators in Turkey
Kurdish demonstrators in Turkey

Turkey's military Saturday carried out a new wave of air and artillery strikes against ISIS jihadists in Syria and Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, in an escalating campaign Ankara says is aimed at rooting out terror.

AFP reports that the two-pronged operation against ISIS and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) -- two groups who are themselves bitterly opposed -- came after a week of deadly violence in Turkey the authorities blamed on both organizations.

The PKK blasted the air raids on its northern Iraq mountain stronghold, saying a fragile ceasefire that had been in place since 2013 with Ankara "no longer has any meaning".

After raids overnight, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkish war planes were carrying out new daytime raids against ISIS in Syria and PKK in northern Iraq.

Meanwhile Turkish ground forces were pounding targets belonging to both groups with artillery, he added.

The raids against ISIS, which had begun before dawn Friday, marked a major shift in policy towards the group by key NATO member Turkey, which has faced severe criticism from its Western allies for not doing enough to combat the jihadists.

But the "anti-terror" operation has now been expanded to strikes on the PKK in neighboring Iraq, where the banned group's military forces are based.

Davutoglu's office said shelters and warehouses containing PKK weapons were hit in the northern Iraq operation, listing seven locations where the strikes had been carried out including Mount Kandil, where the PKK's military leadership is based.

Davutoglu said he had earlier Saturday spoken to Massud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish-ruled autonomous region in northern Iraq, who expressed his "solidarity" with the operation.

The air strike raised questions about the future of the fragile peace process between Turkey and the PKK, which has for decades waged a deadly insurgency in the southeast for self-rule that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The PKK's military wing, the People's Defence Forces (HPG), said in a statement on its website that Turkey had "unilaterally terminated" the ceasefire.

"Amid this intense aerial bombardment, the truce no longer has any meaning," it said.

The violence in Turkey erupted after the killing of 32 people in a suicide bombing Monday in the Turkish town of Suruc on the Syrian border carried out by a 20-year old Turkish man linked to ISIS.

That attack sparked an upsurge in violence in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast, where many accuse Turkish authorities of collaborating with ISIS.

The PKK then outraged the government by claiming the shooting dead of two Turkish police at home while they slept.

Turkish security forces Saturday launched new raids to arrest suspected ISIS and PKK members in Istanbul and other cities, adding to hundreds of detentions already made the day earlier.

A total of 590 people have so far been arrested across Turkey over links to terror groups and for allegedly posing a threat to the state, Davutoglu said.

As well as ISIS and the PKK, the arrest operations also targeted suspected members of the PKK's youth wing, The Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), and the Marxist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C).