PKK tears up unilateral Turkey truce as violence rages

Dilay Gundogan with Mahmut Bozarslan in Diyarbakir
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About 45,000 people have been killed since the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) launched an armed campaign for greater autonomy in southeastern Turkey in 1984

About 45,000 people have been killed since the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) launched an armed campaign for greater autonomy in southeastern Turkey in 1984 (AFP Photo/Mustafa Ozer)

Istanbul (AFP) - Kurdish rebels in Turkey tore up a unilateral ceasefire Thursday over a surge in deadly violence following an election that swept President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party back to power, fanning fears of a return to all-out war.

The announcement from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) came after a spate of deadly clashes and days of Turkish bombing raids targeting its fighters in southeastern Turkey and across the border in northern Iraq.

"The unilateral state of inaction has ended due to the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government's latest attacks," said a PKK statement carried by the pro-Kurdish news agency Firat.

"After the election, the AKP has demonstrated it is going to be a war government," said the PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.

Erdogan vowed on Wednesday that Ankara would press ahead with its military campaign against the rebels in a conflict that has plagued Turkey for more than three decades.

About 45,000 people have been killed since the PKK launched an armed campaign for greater autonomy in southeastern Turkey in 1984.

Violence flared up in July between after a deadly bombing against activists in a Kurdish majority town, shattering a 2013 ceasefire reached after secret talks between Ankara and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The rebels had however said after the devastating suicide bombings on a pro-Kurdish peace rally in Ankara last month that it would suspend all attacks, except in self-defence -- a move seen as aiming to ease tensions ahead of last Sunday's poll.

- Targeting rivals -

Emboldened by its surprise election triumph, the has since gone on the offensive against both the rebels and other opponents of , including critical media.

As premier, Erdogan first introduced pro-Kurdish reforms including cultural and language rights, and launched clandestine talks with Ocalan in 2012.

But on Wednesday, he said Ankara would pursue its military operations against the PKK.

"There will be no break," the Turkish strongman said in his first major policy speech since the AKP win.

"We will keep on fighting until the terrorist organisation buries their weapons under concrete and its members surrender and leave the country."

The government has refused to resurrect peace talks, with Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan saying Tuesday conditions were not yet ripe.

Turkish war planes pounded PKK targets in the southeastern Kurdish-majority town of Yuksekova on Wednesday, the army said, the third straight day of air strikes since the vote.

The military said 31 Kurdish militants were killed in the raids, but the figures could not be independently verified.

One Turkish policeman was also killed in clashes with PKK fighters on Thursday in Silvan, another southeastern town, where a curfew was declared this week, security sources told AFP.

Another four militants were killed in clashes with Turkish security forces in the southeast this week.

- Resist every attack -

The PKK's executive committee (KCK) called on the Kurdish people to step up the struggle "against AKP fascism" and vowed to resist every attack targeting the group.

"We have always made it clear that we are ready for a bilateral ceasefire," it said.

"But it's not possible to maintain a state of in action in the face of the AKP's current policies," accusing the party of failing to display any "serious" efforts to settle the Kurdish question.

The resumption of hostilities in July and a spate of attacks blamed on jihadists from the Islamic State group, were seen as key to the election victory of the AKP, which campaigned on a message of strength and security.

In a historic breakthrough in the June election, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) became the first movement representing Turkey's estimated 15-20 million Kurds to take up seats in parliament.

But on Sunday, the HDP lost about one million votes, largely because of the renewed conflict, although it was able to scrape over the 10 percent barrier to stay in parliament.