Turkish fighter jets have bombarded Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) positions in south-eastern Turkey for the first time since the start of the peace process between the outlawed group and the Turkish government in 2012.
According to media reports, Monday’s strikes came in retaliation for armed PKK offensives on several military outposts in the area. The reports claim that the targeted PKK units had been attacking Daglica military posts using rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire for three days.
A statement published by the Turkish general chief of staff said the military “opened fired immediately in retaliation, in the strongest terms” after repeated PKK attacks in the area, and before air strikes were launched.
The Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that the air strikes caused “major damage” to the PKK, while the Kurdish Firat news agency said there had not yet been any confirmations concerning casualties and losses on the rebel side.
Other Turkish newspapers also reported armed clashes between the PKK and troops in the Tunceli area of east-central Turkey on Monday.
The military operation against the PKK came in the wake of violent clashes last week between Kurdish factions and security forces in several Turkish cities. Anger over perceived government inaction against the continuing Isis attack on the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria spilled over on to the streets, with at least 40 people dead, according to reports.
A number of those killed died in clashes between PKK supporters and members of the Free Cause party (Huda Par), thought to be linked to Hezbollah, a Sunni militant group from Turkey that gained notoriety in the 1990s when it was recruited by the Turkish “deep state” to murder and torture hundreds of PKK members and supporters in the region. Huda Par leaders have rejected all responsibility for the violence last week and accuse PKK members of deliberate provocation and political exploitation of the situation in Kobani.
Observers fear that tensions between the PKK and their Sunni Islamist rivals might stir wider unrest and derail the peace process.
The air strikes are the first major mutual break of the ceasefire since the peace process was launched in 2012 as an effort to end a bloody conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people in 30 years.
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