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Hope For Peace Fades in Turkey Over PKK Attack

  • Dorian Jones

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, August 17, 2011

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, August 17, 2011

The Turkish government has vowed strong retaliation against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), after Kurdish rebels launched a deadly attack on Turkish soldiers in Hakkari province near Turkey's border with Iraq. The killings are the latest escalation in the more than two decades of conflict and hopes of a peaceful solution are now fading fast.

Nine soldiers were killed in an ambush near the Iraqi border that was blamed on the Kurdish rebel group the PKK.

The Turkish army retaliated with airstrikes, but it is believed the rebels had already crossed back to their bases in neighboring Iraq.

The attack brought an angry response from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Terrorists martyred our children," Ergogan said. "May God rest their lost. Terror is a cruel phenomena - without a religion, without a nation, without a race, without a country."

The PKK has stepped up attacks after ending its unilateral cease-fire last month.

Since 1984, the rebel group since has been fighting for greater Kurdish rights in a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives. At least 30 soldiers have died in the past few weeks. And, with the deaths coming in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, it has added to the anger in Turkey against the PKK.

Earlier this month, Erdogan warned Turkey's restraint in action against the rebel group was coming to the end. He said with the passing of Ramadan, Turkey's armed forces would retaliate. Ramadan ends in two weeks.

Journalist and military affairs expert Metehan Demir says the government's reaction will be tough.

"The nature of the operations will be harsh tough, and will include no mercy," said Demir. "And also will include more military air bombings. It will also include cross-border operations."

The bulk of the PKK are based in northern Iraq. Two years ago, Turkish forces entered the region in a week-long incursion.

Analysts say Turkey may coordinate its expected operation with Iran, which is already engaged in a major operation against an offshoot of the PKK.

After last month's general-election victory, the prime minister had promised a new constitution that would address many of the Kurdish minority's demands.

But with the hope of peace fading, the fear is growing that Turkey could return to the 1990s - the peak of the conflict with the PKK. That decade saw tens of thousands of people killed, hundreds of thousands more forced from their homes, and Turkey's economy nearly bankrupted.