Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kurd rebel chief in threat to attack Iran and Turkey

Shirko Abdullah, The Scotsman:
A KURD rebel commander threatened yesterday to retaliate if Turkey or Iran attacked guerrilla bases inside Iraq.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), based in north-east Iraq, accuses Turkey and Iran of massing forces near their borders with Iraq and of mounting co-ordinated operations against the rebels using troops backed by tanks and artillery.

"If Iran and Turkey continue attacking the bases of the PKK or other Kurdish factions, the PKK will launch a guerrilla war against Turkey because the PKK has forces in Turkish areas," Murat Karayilan, a PKK leader, told a news conference. READ MORE

More than 30,000 people have been killed since the PKK began its fight for a Kurdish homeland in south-east Turkey in 1984. The PKK has in the past launched bomb attacks in Turkish cities and tourist resorts as well as fighting troops in the mountains.

Turkey and Iran are wary of the autonomy Iraqi Kurds have consolidated since the 2003 Iraq war and fear it might lead to more unrest among their own large Kurdish populations.

Iraqi defence officials and the Iraqi Kurdish administration say Iranian forces have twice entered Iraq in the past two weeks to attack Iranian Kurdish rebels allied to the PKK.

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, last month tried to ease Turkey's concerns that instability in Iraq was threatening its security, pledging continued support for Ankara's fight against the PKK, branded terrorists by Washington.

Some 5,000 PKK rebels are believed to be operating out of camps in the mountains of northern Iraq.

PKK violence tapered off after the capture of its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in 1999. But it has started up again since the rebels called off a unilateral ceasefire in 2004.

Karayilan said the PKK was not operating in Iran but that its Iranian wing had bases along the Iraq-Iran border.