Undisclosed number of Turkish soldiers killed in major PKK attack

Undisclosed number of Turkish soldiers killed in major PKK attack

Undisclosed number of Turkish soldiers killed in major PKK attack

The Turkish Armed Forces shared this photo of a Turkish soldier on its Google+ account on Sept. 7

An undisclosed number of Turkish soldiers were killed on Sept. 6 in a major attack in the southeastern province of Hakkari conducted by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), marking a crescendo in a deadly stream of attacks since July.

There was no immediate official casualty toll but in a sign of the gravity of the situation, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu broke off a trip to Konya to watch a national football game and summoned an emergency security meeting in Ankara, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.

Militants staged a mine attack on two military vehicles in a convoy in the Dağlıca district of Hakkari, a town bordering Iraq and Iran, security sources told daily Hürriyet. After the explosion, militants opened fire on troops.

The Turkish Armed Forces released a statement early Sept. 7, several hours after the attack, noting that the military unit attacked by militants was removing mines laid on the road by the PKK to re-open it to traffic.

The military unit removed three IEDs, the statement said, before other IEDs were detonated by PKK militants. “There are martyrs and wounded among our heroic brothers-in-arms due to the explosion,” the statement said, without giving any casualty figures.

Two F-4s and two F-16s carried out strikes in retaliation against 13 targets controlled by the militants suspected to have carried out the attack, the statement added. “Despite very bad weather conditions, the operation continues decisively.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reacted to the attack during a live television interview. “A mine attack has been staged. There will be a very particular and decisive fight there. We are very sad,” he told private broadcaster A Haber.

“The weather conditions were unfavorable. A struggle was being waged under such conditions,” he said, adding the attack happened during a “clean-up operation” against PKK militants.

The PKK claimed the attack as an “act of sabotage,” in a statement on the website of its military wing, the People’s Defense Forces (HPG).

The group – which is known for on occasion exaggerating the death tolls of security forces – said 15 Turkish soldiers had been killed. Other unconfirmed reports suggested that some soldiers had been taken prisoner by militants.

Meanwhile, one security source told Reuters that 16 Turkish soldiers were killed in the attack. 

Davutoğlu, who had watched Turkey defeat the Netherlands in a key Euro 2016 qualifier in Konya, was rushed in his motorcade to attend a security meeting with officials including Gen. Hulusi Akar, chief of General Staff, and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan. After two hours, the meeting ended without any public statement.

The PKK has been staging daily, retaliatory attacks against the Turkish Armed Forces as the military presses an operation against the group in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq.

The violence has left in tatters a 2013 cease-fire aimed at assisting the search for a final peace deal to end the PKK’s three-decade insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.    

Earlier Sept. 6, two Turkish police were killed in an attack in the Sur district of southeastern city of Diyarbakır that was attributed to the PKK, security sources told AFP.

Some 70 members of the security forces have been killed since July in attacks blamed on the PKK, while official media have claimed that at least 967 militants have been killed.
The PKK began its attacks after a July 20 suicide attack on Suruç in which 33 left-wing activists were killed. The government blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for the attack, but the PKK claimed that the government was primarily responsible, leading to launch attacks on state forces.

The unrest comes at an explosive time in Turkey as the country prepares to hold snap elections on Nov. 1 following June 7 polls where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority.