Turkey continues attacks on Kurdish fighters
Funeral ceremonies held for 24 Turkish soldiers killed by PKK, as air force bombs group's bases in Iraq for second day.
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2011 07:04
A military ceremony was held in Van, a city in eastern Turkey, located 150km north of the combat zone [Reuters]

Turkey has paid last respects to the 24 soldiers killed by Kurdish fighters on the Iraq border, as Turkish warplanes and helicopter gunships continued attacks on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq.

The air force kept up its bombing raids overnight in response to the attacks, which were the worst loss of life for the army since 1993, local security sources said on Thursday.

Military activity at the air base in mainly Kurdish Diyarbakir province was intensive, with F-16 jets taking off to target the hideouts of the separatist PKK, the sources said.

The PKK, which has waged a decades-long struggle against the Turkish government, claimed responsibility for the attacks, which occurred late on Tuesday and early on Wednesday.

Between 200 and 250 Kurdish rebels entrenched in the mountains of northern Iraq are believed to have crossed into Turkey to carry out the raids on military posts, which also left 18 people wounded.

Following the attacks, the Turkish army immediately responded with an air-supported operation against the fighters in Iraq's northern Qandil mountains, with both air strikes and soldiers on the ground employed.

Military funeral

A military ceremony was held on Thursday morning in Van, a city in eastern Turkey located 150km north of Wednesday's combat zone.

Who are the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)?

The coffins, draped with the red and white flag of Turkey, were loaded into military aircraft to be taken to their hometowns for burial.

Spontaneous demonstrations were held Wednesday across Turkey.

A group of taxi drivers in Istanbul closed the road to traffic in protest at the attacks. Music concerts were also cancelled.

President Abdullah Gul, who recently made a morale-boosting visit to border troops, vowed Turkey's revenge for the attacks would be bitter.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to fight against the PKK, but said the bloody offensive would not change his government's determination to solve the Kurdish conflict.

Turkey's parliament was due to discuss further measures in a closed door session on Thursday.

Iraqi condolences

Iraq on Thursday condemned the PKK attacks and said it would co-operate with Turkey on maintaining security to prevent such attacks in the future.

"The Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional Government are committed to maintaining border security and security co-operation with the Turkish government to prevent such acts from being repeated," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, called his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, on Wednesday to offer his condolences, Turkey's NTV television reported.

Davutoglu told Zebari, who visited Ankara last week, it was not the time for condemnation but for taking concrete steps to stop the PKK violence.

Ankara has repeatedly urged the Iraqi government not to allow its territory to be used as a springboard by the PKK for attacks on Turkey.

Last week, Zebari had said the problem could be resolved in a way that would not poison Turkish-Iraqi relations.

Kurdish fighters have carried out a string of attacks in southeastern Turkey in recent months, killing more than 50 Turkish nationals since July, and prompting retaliatory air raids on PKK targets in northern Iraq.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, took up arms for an autonomous state in 1984, in a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.

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