Thursday, June 7, 2007

Turkey and the Kurds still on the edge

CIZRE, Turkey, June 7 — Turkey is stepping up its presence along its border with Iraq to levels not seen in years in an effort to root out Kurdish separatist guerrillas who take refuge in northern Iraq.

And while reports this week of a large Turkish military push into Iraq seem to be untrue, the army is acting with greater urgency here in the southeast, home to a large part of the Kurdish minority, which accounts for one-fifth of Turkey’s population.

That group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has carried out violent attacks in Turkey since the 1980s, fighting for a separate Kurdish state. It has recently stepped up attacks against Turkish soldiers. Militants killed seven on Monday by hiding in a food delivery vehicle. Three forest rangers were killed Thursday in a land-mine attack.

However amplified the oratory, the militants pose a serious threat. In April and May alone, 30 Turkish soldiers were killed in attacks, and in the first nine months of last year, about 600 people were killed in militant-related violence, according to official Turkish figures. Turkey is trying to become a member of the European Union, and navigating a violent fight with armed separatists has proved difficult.

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