President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to escalate Turkey’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 16 soldiers and wounded six in an attack on two armored vehicles near the southeastern town of Daglica, the army said in a statement on Monday. That’s 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 said 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. After the attack, warplanes struck 23 PKK targets including a dozen anti-aircraft positions, the military said.
The lira fell to a record low 3.0465 against the dollar early Monday before trimming losses. The currency has slumped 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.
More than 1,180 people have been killed in fighting since early July, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. 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, classified as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union, 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.