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Turkish Soldiers Die in Kurdish Attacks

  • Amberin Zaman

At least seven Turkish soldiers were killed in separate attacks by rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party. The deaths follow a suicide bomb attack that Turkish authorities say may have been carried out by the same group Tuesday in Ankara, the capital. From Istanbul, Amberin Zaman has details on the mounting violence in Turkey.

Six Turkish soldiers died when a bomb detonated along the road on which their convoy was traveling in the largely Kurdish southeastern province of Sirnak.

Another Turkish soldier died after stepping on a landmine in the province of Van close to the Iranian border.

Analysts say the casualties are adding pressure on Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to order a cross-border attack against the estimated 3,000 Kurdistan Workers Party rebels based in northern Iraq. Turkey has been lobbying the United States and the Iraqi government to take military action against the rebels in the Kurdish-controlled enclave.

But Iraqi and U.S. officials argue that military tactics alone will not solve Turkey's long-festering dispute with the Kurdistan Workers Party, which is also know as the PKK. They have been urging Turkey to give amnesty to the PKK fighters in Iraq.

But the Ankara government says it will keep up its battle against the rebels until they have been defeated.

Mr. Erdogan told the ATV news channel Wednesday that his government would back the Turkish army if it seeks authorization to strike the rebels inside Iraq. Turkey's top military commander General Yasar Buyukanit said last month that a cross-border offensive against the PKK was "necessary" and would prove "useful."

Meanwhile the PKK has denied involvement in a suicide attack in Ankara that killed six people and dozens of others Tuesday in the capital's busy Ulus commercial district. Scenes of the carnage have provoked outrage throughout the country and drew sharp condemnations from Washington and the European Union.

Ankara governor Kemal Onal says the bomber has been identified as Guven Akkus, a 28-year-old, who had spent time in prison for attacking police during a demonstration in 1996.

Turkish authorities say the suicide bomber was previously affiliated with a little known left wing group called the Turkish Union of Revolutionary Communists. Mr. Erdogan suggested Akkus may have been acting under orders from the PKK.

Onal said investigations into the blast are continuing.

Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler said police are also conducting separate investigations on a foiled attack in Turkey's cultural and business capital, Istanbul.

Guler declined to give details, but he urged the media not to exaggerate the violence, saying this could harm Turkey's multi-billion dollar tourist industry.

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