Turkey detains 718 over alleged Kurdish militant links in Iraq execution

WION Web Team
Ankara, Turkey Published: Feb 15, 2021, 06:31 PM(IST)

Militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Forty-eight PKK militants were killed during the military operation, while three Turkish soldiers were killed and three wounded

Turkey's interior ministry on Monday said that the country's police has detained 718 people across 40 cities over alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants it blames for executing 13 Turks in northern Iraq.

Forty-eight PKK militants were killed during the military operation, while three Turkish soldiers were killed and three wounded, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement. Twelve of the kidnapped Turks had been shot in the head and one in the shoulder, he said.

Turkey launched the military operation against the PKK in northern Iraq's Gara region, some 35 km (22 miles) south of the Turkish border, on February 10 to secure its frontier and find citizens who had been kidnapped previously, he said.

The governor of Malatya province in southeast Turkey named six soldiers and two police officers, kidnapped in separate incidents in 2015 and 2016, as being among those killed in the cave. Three of the dead have yet to be identified in autopsies being carried out in Malatya.

Also read: Turkish President Erdogan accuses US of backing 'terrorists' in Iraq

Earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the United States of siding with "terrorists" who executed Turkish forces in Iraq.

The PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that is believed to have left tens of thousands dead.

The United States and Turkey's other Western allies recognise the PKK as a terror group. But Washington has supported another Kurdish militia in Syria that Turkey sees as an offshoot of the PKK.

Also read: US imposes sanctions on Turkey over Russian S-400 missile

"The statement made by the United States is a farce," Erdogan said in his first public comments on the incident.

"You said you did not support terrorists, when in fact you are on their side and behind them," Erdogan said in televised remarks.

The US State Department on Sunday it "deplores the death of Turkish citizens" but was waiting for further confirmation that Ankara's account of the 13 men's death was true.

The PKK said the 13 died when Turkish forces bombed the cave where the men were being kept.

"If reports of the death of Turkish civilians at the hands of the PKK, a designated terrorist organisation, are confirmed, we condemn this action in the strongest possible terms," the State Department said in a statement.

Erdogan said Turkey's NATO allies had to pick sides.

"After this, there are two options. Either act with Turkey with no ifs or buts, without questioning, or they will be a partner to every murder and bloodshed," he said.

"The terrorist organisation on our doorstep, on our borders, is killing innocents."

 'Revenge'

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, launched its armed insurgency in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

In the last two years Turkey's fight against the PKK has increasingly focused on northern Iraq, where the group has its stronghold in the Qandil mountains on the Iranian border.

The presidency's communications director Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter that as Turkey mourns it dead it also reiterates its commitment to "chase down every last terrorist hiding in their caves and safe houses".

"Our revenge will be painful. Our justice will be swift," he said, slamming the West's "deafening silence" in the face of PKK attacks and pledging "steps against individuals and groups glorifying and encouraging terrorism at home and abroad".

In 2017, Turkey's foreign minister said Ankara was working to bring back citizens he said had been kidnapped by the PKK after Turkish media reported two Turkish intelligence officers had been captured by the PKK in Iraq.

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