The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist terror group, has claimed 31 Turkish soldiers were killed in the latest clashes with national authorities, a death toll Turkey denies. Violence continues unabated in PKK-controlled areas, as Turkey’s government vows to eradicate the Kurdish group.
Reuters reports that the Turkish government is claiming 16 deaths in clashes on Sunday night between the terror group and national authorities. The deaths resulted from PKK attacks on a military convoy, as well as attacks on soldiers one-on-one in Daglica, a Kurdish majority region near Iraq. The convoy attack involved an improvised bomb, damaging two armored vehicles and killing soldiers, according to the Turkish government.
While the Turkish death toll is significantly lower than that claimed by the PKK, it would still be the deadliest attack in the current PKK-Turkish military campaign that began this summer following an attack on Kurds in Suruç, widely attributed to the Islamic State.
The Turkish military was operating in the area, attempting to remove mines and clear roads to connect Daglica to another nearby district, Yüksekova. “Our 16 martyred brothers were clearing the roads of land mines so that the people of the region could travel in peace,” explained Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, vowing to “continue our struggle against terrorism in a determined manner, without making any concessions on democracy or the rules of laws.”
The Turkish military renewed attacks on strategic PKK targets overnight, 23 targets total in Iraq. The airstrikes continued following Prime Minister Davutoglu’s chairing an emergency military meeting to decide how to proceed following the PKK attack. “Three F-4 and four F-16 fighter jets are firing at 23 targets the Separatist Terror Organization [PKK] was determined to be using since 9:00 a.m. Sept 7,” according to a Turkish military statement.
In addition to this attack, a similar incident Saturday left at least four people dead in Semdinli, in the same province as Daglica. This incident–a gunfire assault at a roadblock where a PKK vehicle refused to stop–left at least one civilian dead, in addition to multiple injuries suffered by Turkish soldiers. Reuters estimates that at least 70 soldiers have been killed since violence resurged between the government and the PKK following the Suruç attack.
The struggle between the two groups has forced entire Kurdish villages to evacuate, fearing invasion by the Turkish military or PKK terrorist activity. The PKK has since declared the founding of sovereign territory in northern Turkey, which the international community has largely ignored. The PKK, which has engaged in armed conflict against ISIS, as well as the Turkish government, enjoys support from Syrian Kurdish groups, but not Iraqi Kurdish groups. The president of the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq, Masoud Barzani, issued a public statement of support for the Turkish government against its struggle with the PKK, and the Kurdish government there has called for the PKK to leave the area entirely.