PKK to keep to ceasefire as conflict drags on in Turkey's southeast

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 12, 2015 4:34 AM

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A top Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) commander said the group would stick to a ceasefire announced at the weekend, in memory of some 100 people killed in the Ankara bombing, a website close to the PKK reported on Monday.

The vow came despite Turkish military air strikes on PKK fighters in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq at the weekend and a clash in eastern Turkey in which the militants killed two Turkish soldiers, casting doubt on prospects for the ceasefire.

"We are obliged to maintain this halt to hostilities, without succumbing to doubt, as a legacy for those (killed in Ankara)," Firat news agency reported Murat Karayilan as saying in a radio broadcast to the PKK's militants in Turkey and Iraq.

"We will not break the halt to hostilities," he said.

The PKK announced its ceasefire on Saturday in response to calls to lower tensions ahead of a Nov. 1 election, telling militants to act only if they face an attack, in a move three months after it ended a two-year-old ceasefire.

Earlier on Saturday, two suicide bombers attacked a rally of pro-Kurdish and leftist activists at Ankara's main train station, killing at least 97 people.

Elaborating on the weekend air strikes on PKK targets, the general staff said on Monday 17 PKK fighters had been killed in air operations in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Sunday, destroying shelters, munitions and gun positions.

The killing of the two Turkish soldiers occurred during an anti-PKK operation in eastern Erzurum province as they clashed with militants, the military said.

Some 30-35 PKK fighters were killed in the northern Iraqi raids, according to security sources, while the army said 14 militants were killed in Diyarbakir province's Lice district.

Unrest continued elsewhere in the mainly Kurdish region, with the historic Sur district of Diyarbakir city remaining under round-the-clock curfew for the third day on Monday after police on Sunday fired tear gas to prevent protesters entering the district, witnesses said.

Before the widely expected ceasefire was announced, Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan had dismissed it as a "tactic" ahead of the election, reiterating government demands that the militants lay down arms and leave Turkey.

The PKK's 31-year-old conflict with the state erupted anew in July, with Turkey launching air strikes on militant camps in response to attacks on its security forces, ending a March 2013 ceasefire. Hundreds have been killed in the latest fighting.

Designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, the PKK launched a separatist insurgency in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed. The state launched peace talks with its jailed leader in 2012.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Tom Heneghan)