Five dead in attacks as Turkey battles PKK

Updated 30 July 2015

Five dead in attacks as Turkey battles PKK

ISTANBUL: Five people died Thursday in new attacks on the Turkish security forces blamed on Kurdish militants, as Ankara stepped up its controversial campaign against the separatist rebels.

A new wave of violence included the killing of three Turkish troops that the army said was carried out by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, the deadliest such attack on the security forces since the crisis began last week.
Ankara says it is fighting a two-pronged “war on terror” against Daesh in Syria and the PKK in northern Iraq, after a spate of attacks in the country. But after initially targeting Daesh, the campaign has become increasingly focused on the PKK, with the Turkish air force bombing dozens of targets in an almost week-long campaign.
In apparent response, there has been a new wave of attacks on security forces in southeastern Turkey blamed on the PKK with at least 11 police and army members killed since last week.
Three Turkish troops, including an officer, were killed when PKK militants opened fire on their convoy in the southeastern province of Sirnak, the army said.
“Drones, helicopter gunships and commando units have been despatched to the scene,” it said, adding that one “terrorist” had been killed in the clashes.
Meanwhile, a Turkish policeman and a civilian were killed by a gun attack late Wednesday in the Cinar district of the mainly-Kurdish Diyarbakir region blamed on the PKK.
Both the policeman and the civilian passer-by later died of their wounds in hospital, Turkish official media said. Another civilian was wounded.
Funeral ceremonies for slain police and soldiers have now become an almost daily event, broadcast live on national television.
NTV television said that overnight eight Turkish F-16s had been seen taking off from their base in Diyarbakir on possible new raids in northern Iraq. There was no immediate official confirmation.
The Hurriyet daily said Turkish intelligence sources believed as many as 190 PKK fighters had been killed in the air operations and 300 wounded.
But the government declined to give any toll. “This is not a football game but a fight against terrorism,” a Turkish official told AFP.
The strikes have targeted camps and weapons stores used by the military wing of the PKK in the remote mountains of northern Iraq, including its headquarters on Kandil mountain. PKK targets inside Turkey’s borders have also been hit.
The crisis erupted on July 20 when 32 people were killed in a suicide bombing blamed on Daesh in a town close to the Syrian border.
Kurdish militants, who accuse Ankara of collaborating with IS, responded by murdering two Turkish police in their sleep and saying they no longer considered a cease-fire that had largely been observed since 2013 to be valid.

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 30 min 31 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.