Turkish soldiers killed amid faltering PKK cease-fire | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 26.07.2015
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Turkish soldiers killed amid faltering PKK cease-fire

A car bomb attack has killed two soldiers in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast. The incident comes as Kurdish rebels say Turkish airstrikes on their positions could mean the end of a truce announced in 2013.

The two soldiers were killed by the car bomb while traveling on a road in the town of Lice in Diyarbakir province late on Saturday, a statement from the provincial governor's office said.

The statement said that four soldiers were also wounded in the attack, which it blamed on "terrorists" - the usual name given by Turkish authorities to militants from the banned Kurdistan Workers party (PKK), which has waged a deadly decades-long insurgency for self-rule in the southeast of Turkey. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bombing comes a day after Turkey launched airstrikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq as part of a two-pronged "anti-terror" offensive that is also targeting "Islamic State" ("IS") jihadists in Syria.

The strikes on Kurdish rebel camps are the first since Ankara launched a peace process with the PKK in 2012.

Soldier questioning someone in a white car ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images

Turkish soldiers have set up checkpoints near the attack site

The PKK said on Saturday that the airstrikes meant it would no longer observe a truce in place since 2013.

Cover for action against Kurds?

Some analysts argue that Ankara is using the campaign against "IS," which was launched in response to a number of attacks in Turkey claimed by the jihadist group, as an excuse for continuing its bid to suppress the Kurdish insurgency.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is one of those to criticize Turkey's military actions against the PKK.

Speaking to the German Sunday paper "Bild am Sonntag," von der Leyen said that just as Turkey had a justified right to defend itself against "IS," it was "equally important for it not to leave the initiated path of reconciliation with the Kurdish Workers Party."

German Greens leader Cem Özdemir told the same newspaper that there was no sense in simultaneously fighting "IS" militants and the Kurds, who were the jihadists' "major opponent" in the region of Syria near the Turkish border.

He called on the German government to say this "clearly and distinctly to its NATO partner Turkey."

The White House said late on Saturday that Turkey had a right to defend itself against attacks by the PKK, which the US has designated a terrorist group.

But spokesman Alistair Baskey also said both sides should avoid violence and try to calm tensions.

Spillover from Syria

Growing violence in Turkey has increased concerns that the Syrian civil war, which has seen heavy fighting between "IS" and Kurdish militias allied to the PKK, could be spilling over the border.

Police using water cannon against protesters EPA/ULAS YUNUS TOSUN +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Turkish police have used water cannon against anti-jihadist protesters

Turkish authorities have been detaining hundreds of suspected members of "IS," the PKK and other militant groups in a bid to contain the terrorist threat.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a total of 590 people have been arrested so far.

As tensions across the country continue to rise, authorities have been dispersing or banning anti-jihadist, anti-war marches in Istanbul and other cities, including Ankara.

tj/jlw AFP, AP)

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