Kurd Break Away Group May Launch Attacks

TUNCELI (Reuters)–Kurds on Thursday warned of possible armed attacks by renegade guerrillas in eastern Turkey who had split from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)–objecting to its peace moves.

The PKK’s central committee said in a statement carried by the Kurdish Medya satellite channel that a group of fighterss had refused to obey an order from death-row fighters leader Abdullah Ocalan to abandon armed struggle and leave the country.

"One group in Tunceli has not complied with the decision to withdraw," the statement said–referring to an eastern province.

"This group may carry out an armed attack at any moment. Such actions are not the responsibility of the PKK and these people have no ties with the PKK," it said.

Fighting between the guerrillas and Turkish forces has cost more than 30,000 lives since the PKK took up arms for a separate Kurdish state in 1984. The conflict has eased since Ocalan issued his peace orders last year from a Turkish island jail.

Ocalan says he can use his influence to engineer a complete fighters surrender in return for loosely defined Kurdish cultural rights. Turkey has dismissed his offer as the act of a desperate man and has continued military operations against the PKK.

Partners in Turkey’s coalition government are due to meet next week to decide whether to wait for the European Court of Human Rights to rule on Ocalan’s appeal against the death sentence before sending the verdict to parliament.

Any such punishment must by ratified by the assembly before it can be carried out. Turkey–a candidate for European Union membership–has not executed anybody since 1984. The EU has told Turkey a hanging would damage relations.

While most of the PKK appears to be following Ocalan’s peace program–opposition to his stance has emerged in Turkey and among the Kurdish diaspora in Europe.

If Ocalan is executed it would almost certainly put an end to the PKK’s policy of refraining from armed attacks.

In Tunceli province Turkish troops in November killed a fighters leader who had split from the PKK. Former senior fighterss in Europe have attacked Ocalan for serving Turkish interests.

The latest rift is the first to have been openly acknowledged by the PKK central committee–thought to be based in the mountains of northern Iraq.

Turkish military officials and sources close to the fighterss said the leader of the breakaway group was likely to be regional commander Hamili Yildirim–a PKK founder who had been in charge of fighters forces in Tunceli and Erzurum provinces. They said he was thought to control up to 150 men’spread about the remote upland forests and ravines of eastern Turkey. The Turkish winter months are traditionally a period of inactivity for the fighters–who regroup in mountain bases until spring makes cross-country movement easier.

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