Turkish Army in Northern Iraq
Turkish forces consisting of 22 battalions – roughly 22 thousand troops -- began ground operations in five different zones in northern Iraq territory. Officials say operations are supported by the Turkish Air Force and Turkish Artillery, within the range of 40 kilometers.
PKK Assault Triggers Ground Operations
At least 24 soldiers were killed and 18 others wounded Wednesday when militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, launched simultaneous attacks on security posts in the Çukurca district of the southeastern province of Hakkari on the Iraqi border, triggering an immediate response from the Turkish military.
Turkish troops crossed the border and moved several kilometers into Iraq in pursuit of the perpetrators of the vicious attack, in which at least 21 PKK militants were also killed.
The Air Force also launched an operation Wednesday as fighter jets bombed PKK camps in Qandil, Hınere, Zap and Hakurk in northern Iraq, according to reports.
Clashes between PKK militants and Turkish troops, who entered northern Iraq from three different points, were still underway, while reports indicated that commando units were being dropped into northern Iraq by helicopters.
The Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, accompanied by force commanders, flew to Hakkari Wednesday morning; right after the stories of the deadly attack broke.
Some 200 PKK members launched a series of simultaneous attacks against eight police and military targets in Çukurca around 1 a.m. The assault began with a diversionary attack against police and gendarmerie stations in central Çukurca. Shortly afterward, PKK members launched another assault against the Kekliktepe Gendarmerie Border Outpost, 15 kilometers away from the district center, where the bulk of the fighting took place.
Ground reinforcements and attack helicopters were also sent to aid the border units, but 21 troops were killed in the ensuing clashes, while another two heavily wounded troops later died in hospital.
The PKK militants then began disengaging at dawn and withdrawing over the Iraqi border.
The attack represents the Turkish military's fourth deadliest engagement with the PKK and comes only a day after another five police officers and four civilians lost their lives in the southeastern province of Bitlis.
Among the victims of the attack were 1st Lt. Murat Bek, who was to marry next month, and Sgt. Maj. İbrahim Geçer, a married father of two.
The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Ankara Vows 'Immense Revenge' for PKK Attacks
Ankara has promised "immense revenge" for the deaths of at least 24 soldiers killed by Kurdish militants Wednesday as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called an emergency meeting to discuss cross-border military action to counter the escalating wave of violence.
"Those who imagine that the attacks are shaking the state and bringing it into line will see that the revenge for those attacks will be immense and multifold," President Abdullah Gül said. "Sooner or later they will understand that waging a war against the Turkish state will lead them nowhere Those who might have gotten the idea that democratic progress in Turkey is gained by the way of terror are committing a great historic mistake."
Erdoğan, who scrapped a visit to Kazakhstan after news of the attacks broke in the morning, announced that the military had launched "large-scale operations in the region, including hot pursuits in northern Iraq allowed by international law."
He put the death toll at 24 and said another 18 security personnel were wounded when militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, mounted simultaneous attacks early Wednesday morning at several army and police facilities in the border province of Hakkari.
"Friends and enemies must understand that we will never bow down to any assault, either from inside or outside, that we will never step back and give away even the slightest chunk of the motherland's soil," Erdoğan said.
The emergency meeting, chaired by Erdoğan, included Hakan Fidan, undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization; Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay; Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin; Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, as well as the deputy chief of general staff and the gendarmerie's head of operations.
Fidan returned to Erdoğan's office for more talks in the afternoon, while many ministers either canceled their programs or cut short visits abroad to return to Ankara.
The leaders issued stern warnings to those who shelter and tolerate the PKK in messages that appeared directed primarily at Kurdish-run northern Iraq.
"The Turkish state will be on the back of the neck of anyone who is openly or covertly sheltering, supporting, abetting and tolerating terror, or turning a blind eye to it," Erdoğan told reporters after the emergency talks.
The prime minister also underlined the timing of the attack.
"The treacherous attack that came on the same day as the works on a new, civilian and democratic constitution were to start will not hold us from a bright future," Erdoğan said. "We will, at the same time, fight against terror and work to destroy the background it has been exploiting to get support."
He argued that the recent escalation of PKK violence showed that "the terrorist organization is the tool of those who target Turkey's well-being, peace and sustained development" and urged stronger international cooperation against terrorism.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, who cut short a visit to Macedonia, said the rough mountainous terrain in the southeast made it easy for the PKK to move around and smuggle weapons. He also admitted occasional shortcomings on the part of the government.
"Sometimes we lose the grip of control, fall short on intelligence and remain out of the loop. This incident is one of them," Arınç said.
In further comments, Erdoğan issued a veiled rebuke to the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, for refusing to brand the PKK as a terrorist group, charging that their calls for peace are insincere. He also urged opposition parties to withhold any criticism of the government.
"Today, we need solidarity rather than criticism, recriminations and provocations," Erdoğan said.
Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan said the bloodshed would not deter Ankara from efforts to improve the southeast and announced that he would go to Hakkari next week, together with business people, to consider fresh investment, trade and employment opportunities.
New Charter Committee Kicks Off in Shadow of Deadly Attacks
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek vowed Wednesday that a landmark drive to rewrite Turkey's constitution would go ahead despite escalating violence in the southeast as he kicked off the first meeting of the Preparatory Constitution Commission tasked with drafting the new charter.
The deadly attacks on security forces by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in Hakkari province claimed at least 24 lives overshadowed "a historic day," Çiçek said in opening remarks at the 12-member cross-party commission.
"No matter how great our pain is, we will suppress it. There is no turning back, regardless of how much the developing circumstances are making our task harder," Çiçek said. "Those developments maybe an attempt to discourage us from our way. We will carry out our responsibilities with calm, prudence and common sense, sticking to law and democracy."
Speaking to journalists after the closed-door session, Çiçek said a four-member sub-commission had been set up to outline the procedural rules under which the commission' would work.
The sub-commission, comprised of Ahmet İyimaya of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Atilla Kart of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, Oktay Öztürk of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and Ayla Akat Ata of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, will prepare a draft by Oct. 24.
In their opening remarks at the meeting, all opposition representatives called for democratic reforms to be carried out simultaneously with the drafting of the new constitution.
CHP's Kart said the new constitution should reflect the spirit of the time, calling for simultaneous amendments in the electoral law, political party's law, the abolition of special-authority courts, and a solution to the problem of imprisoned deputies.
Voicing sorrow over the killed soldiers, the BDP's Akat said the Kurdish issue remained Turkey's most urgent problem. The new constitution will be a first step towards a settlement, she said, suggesting also "confidence-boosting" amendments in the penal code, the anti-terror law and the political parties law
"A new constitution is not enough. The government should show utmost care for democracy. If this commission managed to gather despite the current events, it should be able to continue working free from daily politics," Ata said.
AKP representative Mehmet Ali Şahin condemned the PKK attack, pledging that, "the parties' representatives in Parliament will work with determination more than ever."
Implying that open-ended debates on the new charter would be futile, he said, "We should not sacrifice the spirit of reconciliation to daily political debates."
The MHP's Faruk Bal said the new charter should keep the first three articles of the current constitution "which unites the state and the nation and associates the republic with democracy." He said a new constitution would not be a "magic wand" to rectify all problems and called for parallel amendments in the electoral and political parties laws.
During the closed-door session, Çiçek requested commission members not to speak to journalists about the content of their meetings, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. On the other hand, commission members reportedly agreed that Çiçek would be the chairman of the commission. They also agreed on a rotating chairmanship when the speaker is absent. Some members suggested a constitutional status for the commission, sources said.
'Internet Assassin' Joins Swap Arrivals in Turkey
A Palestinian woman convicted of luring a love-struck Israeli boy into a fatal trap set by militants arrived in Ankara with 10 others Wednesday after unexpectedly refusing to go to Gaza following her release as part of a Hamas-Israeli prisoner swap.
Amina Muna, a member of al-Fatah, joined 10 Palestinian men released from Israeli jails this week on the flight from Cairo to Ankara, where they were met by Palestinian Ambassador to Ankara Nabil Maarouf and Turkish Foreign Ministry officials. Only the 10 men were expected in Ankara, but Muna was added to the passenger list at the last moment when she refused to go to Gaza, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.
The arrivals made the v-for-victory signs when they disembarked the plane at Esenboğa Airport and prostrated themselves in an Islamic religious gesture of gratitude. Speaking at the airport after their arrival, Maarouf said the ex-prisoners would undergo a health check-up and added that Turkish authorities would decide where the Palestinians would stay in Turkey and for how long. Turkish officials are planning to keep the arrivals out of the public eye to protect their security.
The 11 Palestinians were among the first batch of 477 detainees freed on Oct. 18 after Israel agreed to release over 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was held in captivity by Hamas for over five years. Forty of the 477 were deemed too dangerous to remain on Israel's doorstep and were sent into exile. In addition to Muna, former female prisoner Wafa al-Bass also refused to go to Gaza, causing a delay in the implementation of the swap agreement.
Palestine Minister Thanks Turkey
Muna, who is known as the "Internet assassin," was jailed for life in 2003 for luring Israeli teenager Ofir Rahum, 16, into believing that she was a newly arrived American. In 2001, Muna allegedly persuaded him to meet her in Jerusalem where she drove him to the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah where two al-Fatah members, Hassan al-Qadi and Abdul Fattah Dawla, allegedly shot him at close range. Meanwhile, Palestine Economy Minister Hasan Abu-Libdeh told the Daily News Wednesday that they were thankful to the Turkish people and government for receiving Turkey's constant support in political and economic terms.
"Turkey has opened its arms to [Palestinians released in exchange for Shalit]; we always need Turkey's open arms," Abu-Libdeh said in Istanbul, adding that Turkey had made significant contributions in the swap deal.
Turkey's support to the Palestinians will continue until the embargo against Gaza ends, Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan said.
Barzani Says PKK Attacks Target Turkish, Kurdish Brotherhood
Massoud Barzani, the leader of northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish government, said the recent attacks by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, target the Kurdish-Turkish brotherhood, condemning the attacks and offered his condolences to the Turkish prime minister.
Twenty-four Turkish security members were killed and 18 others were injured on Wednesday when terrorists from the PKK staged simultaneous attacks on military outposts and police stations near the border towns of Çukurca and Yüksekova.
Barzani called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following the attacks and offered his condolences to the families of the soldiers and policemen killed in the attacks. He said the attacks target brotherhood between Kurdish and Turkish people, strongly condemning the attacks, which he said caused him much sorrow.
The PKK uses its mountain bases in northern Iraq to launch attacks on Turkey. Turkish warplanes have been bombing PKK targets since late last month after the terrorist group intensified its attacks, killing dozens of Turkish soldiers in the past two months.
DP Urges Government, PKK to 'End War'
Dialogue is the only way to resolve the Kurdish conflict, the Peace and Democracy Party, BDP, said Wednesday, urging both the government and Kurdish militants "to immediately end their war" after at least 24 soldiers were killed in Hakkari.
The BDP, whose main focus is the Kurdish issue, called on the government, Parliament and all political forces to mobilize for a peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which launched the simultaneous attacks on security services early Wednesday morning in the eastern province.
"We appeal to both the PKK and the government to immediately end the war without wasting another second. Dialogue is the only solution. The lives lost should push us in the direction of peace, not more war," BDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Gültan Kışanak said in a written statement.
The government is responsible for the escalation in violence because of its reluctance to abandon military actions against the PKK.
"Unfortunately, the government has not responded positively to calls by our party, civic groups and intellectuals to lay down arms and launch a dialogue. They have insisted on their policies of war, calling it a new period in the fight against terror," the statement said. "We appeal to the government and Parliament to work together hand in hand for a comprehensive and lasting solution to the problem."
The BDP leaders also extended condolences to the families of the security personnel slain in the Hakkari attacks.
MHP Demands Martial Law
Failed government policies are to blame for an escalation in terrorism, Turkey's opposition said Tuesday, recommending the establishment of a state of emergency in Southeast Anatolia and a buffer zone in northern Iraq following a large-scale attack in Hakkari.
"A state of emergency must be declared in the regions where terror exists," Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, said in a written statement, urging the government to launch cross-border operations into northern Iraq where it would set up a buffer zone to stop the infiltration of militants into Turkey.
On Tuesday, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, killed at least 24 troops in attacks on eight different military outposts in the eastern province of Hakkari, igniting fury among oppositional parties.
The reason for the incident, the MHP statement said, was because of "the PKK's persistence, the compromises and hopes given to the terrorist organization, the negotiations and truce made with the terrorist leader, and embracing the peshmargas in northern Iraq."
Peshmargas – members of the unofficial Kurdish military in northern Iraq –harbor PKK members, providing them with guns and motivation. But it's also the policies of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, that have been "wrong from the beginning" as its attempts to "create friendship" have resulted in "defeat, disappointment, and terror."
By dragging its feet in cracking down on PKK bases in northern Iraq's Kandil Mountains, the government is fueling acts of terror, the MHP leader said, adding that that delay had resulted in death. Bahçeli also criticized the government for taking orders from the United States and expecting justice from the Iraqi government.
"All of the steps they have taken so far have failed," Bahçeli said.
Parliament Should Intervene
Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also condemned the PKK's attack while criticizing the government for not taking appropriate measures in the fight against terrorism.
"I am making an open call to the parliamentary speaker: The government is no longer the [main actor] for finding a solution [to terrorism]. The government is incapable of solving this problem," Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters following a party meeting Tuesday. "Parliament should step in to solve it through establishing a commission which is tasked with producing suggestions to this end.
Recalling that the government had failed to heed his party's recommendations to solve the terror problem, Kılıçdaroğlu said: "It's not an easy task to talk on such a day. But when I saw the prime minister appearing on TV and starting to complain about the opposition, I cannot stop myself from reacting. You must produce solutions. This is your responsibility."
Tensions Flare Up in Parliament
Terrorist attacks on security forces that claimed at least 24 lives sparked heated debates in Parliament Wednesday after a senior member of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, called the incidents "a war."
BDP Deputy Group Chairwoman Pervin Buldan sent tempers running high when she said: "Both sites have casualties in the war. Peace is Turkey's only option."
"This is not a war, it is terrorism," Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ retorted. "And terrorist attacks will not deter us from fighting against them."
Bozdağ said the government was doing everything possible to fight terror.
The deputy group chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, Oktay Vural, charged that government's policies on the Kurdish issue had led to the escalation of violence and condemned "those who support this disaster," referring to the BDP.
The parties in Parliament agreed to hold a general debate on the terror problem in a closed session today.
TV, Radio Stations Cancel Shows in Memorium of 24 Killed Soldiers
Radio and TV stations rescheduled their programs and companies withdrew upbeat advertisements in the wake of the death of 24 soldiers Tuesday, and at least one radio station and one TV station stopped broadcasting altogether as a tribute.
Best FM, one of the first privately-owned radio stations to broadcast nationwide in Turkey, announced that it stopped its broadcast out of respect to 24 soldiers killed in an attack by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the southeastern Hakkari province.
Mavi Karadeniz TV, which broadcasts from the Black Sea region, also canceled its programs and replaced them with a still message that called for unity among Turkish citizens.
National broadcasters rescheduled their programs, replacing comedy shows and movies with more somber alternatives.
Kanal D announced it canceled a popular talk show that airs Friday nights and Star TV replaced a scheduled comedy film with "Resident Evil: Afterlife."
Producer of the hit TV comedy series "Çocuklar Duymasın" -- "Don't let the Children Hear" -- Birol Güven announced over Twitter that he canceled the show for the week. CNNTürk canceled a nightly talk show.
Number One FM, which normally airs pop and dance hits, said it changed its programming to broadcast slow music. Radio veteran Cem Ceminay's morning show, which involved his comedy antics and all-too-popular prank calls, was also among the canceled programs.