Turk PKK Rebels Threaten “Retaliation”

TUNCELI–Turkey (Reuters)–Kurdish separatist guerrillas said on Thursday the Turkish army was inflicting “constant blows” upon them–with 33 rebels killed since April–and warned they were ready to strike back.

Clashes between Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels and soldiers have dropped off since their leader Abdullah Ocalan–captured by Turkish forces in 1999–ordered his followers to pursue cultural rights through political means.

But Ankara has dismissed Ocalan’s change of heart as a ruse to save his own neck–and vowed to wipe out the PKK. Ocalan is the lone inmate on death row in an island prison.

“The constant blows aimed at destroying us are forcing our guerrilla forces towards retaliation,” the PKK command was quoted as saying by the Europe-based Ozgur Politika website–the usual channel for statemen’s by the rebel leadership.

“We call on officials of the Turkish state once more to abandon these coercive attacks (and) the politics of denial and destruction,” it said.

The statement said 33 PKK rebels had been killed in the southeastern provinces of Sirnak and Hakkari since April. The number of deaths tallies with statemen’s made by security officials in April and May about clashes in the southeast.

Separately–two suspected PKK rebels surrendered to authorities in Hakkari and Sirnak–the regional emergency-rule governor’s office told Reuters on Thursday.

A relative peace has returned to Turkey’s impoverished southeast–blighted by more than 16 years of armed conflict that has claimed 30,000 lives. Since Ocalan’s capture–some 5,000 PKK fighters have withdrawn into northern Iraq and Iran.

Turkey has said it will continue fighting the rebels until they have been “neutralized.” Critics have argued–however–that the government has done precious little to rebuild the area ravaged by conflict and restore political stability.

“Despite the Turkish army’s cries of heroism–our guerrilla army is powerful and strong enough to rapidly become an even more superior force,” the PKK said in its statement.

A farmer in Hakkari died and another was seriously wounded late on Wednesday when a landmine exploded in the field where they were working–the governor’s office said. Officials said the mine had been laid by the PKK.

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