Turkish Troops Kill Six PKK Rebels Suspected of Murdering Villagers
Turkish troops killed six Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, during clashes with militants suspected of murdering three villagers earlier in the week, local authorities said Saturday.
The clashes occurred in a rural area near the city of Hakkari, during an operation against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, held responsible for the death of three villagers Wednesday, the government's emergency rule headquarters in Diyarbakir, said in a statement.
PKK rebels on Wednesday captured four villagers picking walnuts near the village of Kavakli, and shot dead three of them, added the statement.
The fourth man escaped and informed the security forces of the incident.
The killings are the first known PKK attack against civilians since September 1999, when the organization announced it was ending its 15-year-old armed campaign for self-rule in southeast Turkey, a senior local official told AFP.
But in January the PKK said that two small splinter groups had refused to obey party orders to withdraw from Turkish territory, warning they may continue the fight.
The powerful Turkish military has sought to down-play the PKK's peace bid, describing it as a "ploy" and saying the rebels should either surrender or face the army.
However, clashes between government troops and PKK rebels have notably scaled down since the peace bid was made, following peace calls from condemned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, on death row in a Turkish jail.
The three slain villagers were buried in a village in the neighboring province of Van on Saturday, reported the Anatolia news agency.
The mayor of Van, a member of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HADEP), condemned the killings in a speech during the funeral.
"Our country cannot tolerate more funerals. We condemn with hatred those responsible," Sahabettin Ozarslaner said.
HADEP, which backs a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish conflict and recognition of the Turkish Kurds' cultural rights, still faces a possible ban for its alleged links to the PKK, outlawed by Ankara.
The Kurdish conflict has claimed some 36,500 lives -- DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (AFP)
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