Turkish PM would back Iraq incursion after suicide bombing
by Hande Culpan
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to support any Turkish military incursion in Iraq against Kurdish rebel bases there after a deadly suicide bombing in Ankara blamed on the militants.
Upping the pressure on its southern neighbour, Ankara urged Baghdad Thursday to act against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) holed up in northern Iraq.
"We expect urgent and resolute measures," foreign ministry spokesman Levent Bilman told reporters shortly after reports of more violence with a landmine explosion attributed to the PKK killing six soldiers in the southeast.
Erdogan said late Wednesday his government would secure parliamentary authorisation if the army sought to conduct a cross-border operation targeting PKK bases.
"It is out of the question for us to disagree on this issue with our... soldiers," he told the private ATV network. "When the time comes, we will take the necessary step, there will be no delay."
Officials said the method of Tuesday's suicide bomb attack in Ankara, which killed six people, and the type of explosives used tallied with past practices of the PKK, which has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984.
Ankara charges that the Iraqi Kurds who run an autonomous administration in northern Iraq tolerate -- and even assist -- thousands of PKK rebels who have found refuge in their region.
It says the PKK enjoys unrestricted movement in the mountain enclave and obtains weapons and explosives for attacks inside Turkey.
In a diplomatic note handed to Baghdad on April 9, Turkey demanded that Iraq capture and hand over PKK members, close down organisations linked to the group and put the group on its list of terrorist organisations.
Baghdad responded on May 17, voicing "its intention to cooperate on the issue of PKK terrorism," Bilman revealed in a statement later Thursday.
"We continue to closely follow up on our demands from Iraq... and cooperation opportunities in this field," he said.
Violence in southeastern Turkey increased after the army said last month that it had launched large-scale operations against the PKK in what has become an annual event as the spring thaw makes it easier for rebels to cross the frontier.
Local security sources said six Turkish soldiers were killed and 10 others wounded when PKK rebels set off a remote-controlled landmine during a security sweep in Sirnak province.
The explosion occurred about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border with Iraq, the sources said.
The PKK has denied any involvement in Tuesday's bombing at a busy shopping centre in Ankara, which also left 121 people injured. But Turkish newspapers reported Thursday that the bomber was a former far-left militant believed to have joined the Kurdish insurgency.
Guven Akkus, 28, once affiliated to the ultra-leftist Union of Revolutionary Communists of Turkey (TIKB), switched to the PKK after he was jailed for two years pending trial over May Day violence in 1996, the reports said.
In a statement posted on a far-left Turkish Internet site, the TIKB denied any involvement with Akkus or the explosion.
Other than fighting Turkish security forces, the PKK, listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, has also carried out suicide bombings.
The Turkish army regularly seizes from the PKK large amounts of plastic explosives it says militants bring across the border into Turkey from their bases in northern Iraq.
More than 37,000 people have died since the PKK picked up arms.