ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A senior commander in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on Tuesday called on armed followers to refrain from unprovoked attacks on security forces as violence escalates in southeastern Turkey following the collapse of a ceasefire.
Duran Kalkan, a member of the PKK’s executive committee, stopped well short of ordering a new truce but said attacks on conscripts and other soldiers merely doing their duty violated the PKK’s “views”.
More than 60 police officers and soldiers have been killed in attacks by the PKK and affiliated groups and close to 200 have been wounded, dashing hopes that a 2-1/2-year ceasefire could spell the end of the long-running insurgency.
Turkey’s state-run news agency, Anadolu, says 800 PKK fighters have been killed. The numbers are difficult to verify.
“Absolutely no attacks should be made against soldiers who have not embarked on an operation nor attacked guerrillas or civilians, who are uninvolved in political administration, who are simply at the border to defend their country or standing at a post,” Kalkan told Firat News, a PKK-allied news organisation.
His call may also raise questions about the how much control the PKK exerts over the groups claiming responsibility for attacks since mid-July when violence surged after Turkey began airstrikes against militants in northern Iraq and Turkey.
The PKK distanced itself from the assassination of two police officers on July 22 that was claimed by a splinter group, saying the killers were part of a local group unconnected with the PKK. Turkey began military operations after the attack.
Kalkan also called on Turkish soldiers not to fall prey to the ruling AK Party’s “war games”, accusing the government of using the armed forces to maintain its grip on power after it failed to win a majority in a June 7 election and then failed to find a coalition partner. A snap poll is expected on Nov. 1.
Kurds have accused the government of using the military campaign to stifle Kurdish political ambitions after the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) became the first pro-Kurdish grouping to enter parliament. Ankara denies these charges.
Turkey has expressed concern about Kurds’ territorial gains in Syria, where groups allied to the PKK have cooperated with the United States to fight Islamic State.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. More than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have died since the rebels took up arms in 1984.
Kalkan also dismissed another call from HDP Chairman Selahattin Demirtas that the PKK cease attacks, saying the party failed to secure peace in parliament, leading to the violence.
“The HDP has not been sufficiently innovative and successful in politics. They make calls, but what have they achieved that they are calling on others?” he said.
Editing by Nick Tattersall and Louise Ireland