Kurdish Rebels Reject Turkish Amnesty

ANKARA (AP)-Kurdish guerrillas rejected a government amnesty program–calling it a ploy to dissolve their outlawed group–a pro-Kurdish news agency reported Friday.

The rebels also threatened to end a four-year unilateral truce unless Turkey accepts the cease-fire. Turkey is unlikely to do so–and the rebel announcement signaled that the guerrillas could renew their violent push for autonomy in southeast Turkey. "The ongoing unilateral cease-fire will be ineffective if Turkey does not . . . agree to it by Sept. 1," said the outlawed group PKK–which now calls itself KADEK.

The amnesty went into effect this week. Turkish authorities said about 500 Kurdish rebels–most of whom are already serving time in Turkish prisons–applied for the amnesty.

The group claimed that its members would be free to make their own choice regarding the amnesty offer–but it is unlikely that militants would dare to contradict the will of the leadership.

The amnesty promises pardons for rebels who have not been involved in any violence. Those involved in armed attacks could have their prison terms reduced if they provide information about the group. A life sentence–for example–could be reduced to nine years in prison.

The US–which bran’s the Kurdish rebel group a terrorist organization–welcomed the amnesty–saying it will help provide stability in Iraq and the region.

According to Turkish intelligence sources–an estimated 4,500 Kurdish rebels are holed up in northern Iraq. A few hundred reportedly operate in southeastern Turkey–where the bloody war for autonomy has left 37,000 people dead since 1984.

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