Authorities: 27 PKK militants killed in Turkey

Authorities: 27 PKK militants killed in Turkey

Authorities: 27 PKK militants killed in Turkey

DHA photo

Turkish security forces have killed 27 Kurdish militants in a helicopter-backed offensive in southeast Turkey, authorities say days after another major anti-PKK offensive.

The rebels, including an alleged senior commander, were killed in a five-day long attack targeting caves and other hideouts on Mt. Cudi in Şırnak province, which borders Iraq, the office of the governor said late Friday.

Five other militants, suspected members of the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers' Party or "PKK” were captured alive, it added.

Pro-Kurdish news agency Firat confirmed clashes in Cudi, but made no mention of any militant deaths.

The announcement came two days after another major offensive against the autonomy-seeking group, also backed by airpower, left 21 suspected rebels dead in Diyarbakir province, some 300 kilometers (190 miles) away.

The militants, branded as terrorists by the United States and the European Union, are fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict since 1984.

The operations are a victory of sorts for the Turkish military, which seemed to be struggling to clamp down on guerrilla activities after a spate of attacks killed dozens of soldiers and civilians this year.

They follow the U.S. deployment of four Predator drones to Turkey from Iraq following the American troops' withdrawal from the country. The U.S. has pledged to assist Turkey in its fight against the militants who often stage attacks from bases across the border in Iraq's north.

Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said this week that Turkey is determined to press ahead with the anti-militant operations, rejecting speculation of possible new negotiations with the PKK to end the violence.

"At this moment, no place is secure for the PKK and its members nor will it be", Atalay said.

In a related development, Turkish authorities on Saturday released a photographer for the French news agency, Agence France Presse, along with 13 other people who were detained as part of an investigation into a group prosecutors accuse of having links to the PKK.

The Anadolu Agency said, however, that a court had ordered 35 other suspects formally arrested pending trial over their alleged involvement in the Union of Kurdistan Communities, which authorities say is an offshoot of the PKK and of working as its political arm. Kurdish activists reject the accusation and insist the group is an umbrella organization to unite all Kurds.

Hundreds of Kurdish activists, including elected mayors, have already been charged as part of the investigation since 2009.

AFP photographer Mustafa Ozer and 48 other suspects, including a number of other journalists, were detained in police raids in seven cities on Dec. 20, sparking increased concerns over media freedoms in Turkey, where dozens of journalists have been jailed mostly on anti-terror charges, accused of aiding alleged terrorist groups.

The Dogan news agency said most of the suspects ordered arrested Saturday are journalists working for Kurdish media organizations.

The U.S. and the EU have criticized Turkey's press freedoms and there are calls for the country to revise anti-terrorism laws which have led to the arrests of the journalists as well as dozens of student protesters.