Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to escalate his government’s campaign against Kurdish separatists after soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack near the Iraqi border.
Militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, killed and wounded soldiers in an attack on two armored vehicles near the southeastern town of Daglica, the army said in a statement Monday. While no casualty figure was given, media reported as many as 16 killed in Sunday’s bombing, including a lieutenant-colonel. If confirmed, that would be the highest single toll since violence resumed in July, shattering a three-year lull.
“We will make them pay dearly,” Erdogan told AHaber television in an interview late Sunday. With this attack, he warned, the military campaign has “embarked upon a very different course.”
State-run television stations TRT and AHaber hinted at a possible direction, saying the army may stage a cross-border offensive to chase militants based in northern Iraq, as it has done repeatedly under an agreement with Baghdad. Shortly after Sunday’s bombing, warplanes struck about a dozen PKK hideouts in southeastern Hakkari province, the military said.
The lira dipped to a record low 3.0465 against the dollar early Monday before rebounding. The currency has fallen more than 20 percent this year amid the renewed violence, deepening political turmoil and an emerging markets rout. The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index dropped to the lowest in two weeks.
Clashes between Kurdish separatists and Turkish forces surged after elections in June, which failed to produce a clear winner or a governing coalition but did bring a pro-Kurdish party into parliament for the first time. A new vote has been scheduled for Nov. 1.
According to state-run Anadolu Agency, more than 1,180 people have been killed in fighting since early July. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last week dismissed warnings from the pro-Kurdish HDP party that spiraling violence could prevent voting in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.
The PKK has long used northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks in its war for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast. The conflict, which had been suspended for three years amid peace efforts, has killed tens of thousands of people since the insurgency began in 1984. Turkey’s parliament voted last week to extend by another year the mandate for the government to order military action in northern Iraq or Syria.