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Turkey Blames Kurdish Rebels for Train Attacks

  • Amberin Zaman

Violence is escalating in the predominantly Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey. Government officials say six people were killed Saturday when suspected guerrillas from the group known as the PKK detonated bombs that derailed two trains.

In addition to those killed, at least 20 people were injured in the attack that took place in the southeastern province of Bingol. Turkey's interior minister, Abdul Kadir Aksu, accused PKK rebels of setting off a bomb that derailed seven railway cars of a passenger train. Soon after that attack, guerrillas triggered another explosive that derailed a second train that was rushing to aid the wounded. It is not clear if there were any casualties in this attack. A third bomb was defused by security forces. Minister Aksu said Turkish forces were continuing to comb the area in search of the rebels.

The rebels are accused of carrying out another attack Saturday. Three police officers in the southeastern town of Kulp, near the city of Diyarbakir, were wounded as they were about to inspect a package left in the street. Like the attacks on the railway cars, the package bomb is believed to have been triggered by a remote control device.

Saturday's incidents are the latest in a string of attacks the Turkish government is blaming on the PKK. The group ended a unilateral cease-fire a year ago because of what it termed the Turkish government's failure to negotiate a lasting peace.

Nearly 40,000 people have died since the PKK launched its armed campaign for Kurdish independence in 1984.

Sources close to the rebels say the attacks are intended to pressure the Turkish government into issuing an amnesty for all PKK members, including their leaders, most of whom are based in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. Turkey refuses to negotiate with the guerrillas saying it will not talk to "terrorists."

Turkey has been stepping up pressure on the United States to take military action against some 3,000 to 5,000 PKK rebels based in Iraq.

Washington says it cannot open a second front against the group while its forces are stretched in a battle against Iraqi insurgents.

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