Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed today there would no let-up in operations against Kurdish rebel strongholds, after a cross-border raid this week killed more than 30 militants.
“We will not stop,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara, adding that operations by Turkey’s security forces in the southeast of the country and in northern Iraq would continue “without pause.”
Erdogan said the military killed more than 30 Kurdish fighters in a cross-border raid overnight in northern Iraq where outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants are holed up, but the presidency later said in a statement he was referring to an operation on September 25.
Turkey has seen a surge of violence between its security forces and Kurdish militants since the collapse of a two-year ceasefire in July, with Ankara launching almost daily air raids on their bases on both sides of the border with Iraq.
In response, Kurdish militants have killed dozens of police and soldiers in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast in almost daily bomb and shooting attacks.
“God willing, the terrorist organisation will not achieve anything through armed attacks,” Erdogan said.
Over 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984 demanding an independent state for Kurds. Since then the group has narrowed its demands to greater autonomy and cultural rights.
“We will keep on fighting relentlessly until the very end and God willing, we will reach the peace we have been longing for.”
Erdogan also said “more than 2,000 terrorists had been killed so far at home and abroad” — a figure that cannot be independently confirmed.
Erdogan’s two-month-old offensive against the PKK, whose fighters have responded with a ferocity unseen since the 1990s, is viewed with suspicion by some critics accusing him of snaring nationalist votes for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the November 1 vote.
The AKP is seeking to reverse the losses it sustained in June’s election — which stripped it of its overall majority in parliament, forcing the party into coalition talks that ended in failure.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) scored a major breakthrough in that election, denting Erdogan’s aspirations for broader presidency with full executive powers.
Erdogan has accused the HDP of being a front for the PKK — a charge denied by the party leadership.
“You succeeded in (deceiving the people) on June 7 but I believe that you will be unable to so on November 1,” he said.