October 12, 2015 / 8:34 AM / 2 years ago

PKK to keep to ceasefire as conflict drags on in Turkey's southeast

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A top Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) commander was quoted on Monday as saying the group would stick to a unilateral ceasefire announced at the weekend despite Turkish air strikes against its positions in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq.

Turkish soldiers in a tank and an armored vehicle patrol on the road to the town of Beytussebab in the southeastern Sirnak province, Turkey, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

The government has dismissed the PKK ceasefire as a ploy ahead of November polls, where a pro-Kurdish party opposed to President Tayyip Erdogan will be seeking to strengthen a foothold in parliament.

“We are obliged to maintain this halt to hostilities, without succumbing to doubt, as a legacy for those (killed in Ankara),” Firat news agency reported Murat Karayilan as saying in a radio broadcast to the PKK’s militants in Turkey and Iraq.

At least 97 people, many from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), were killed on Saturday in the deadliest such attack in modern Turkey’s history when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the middle of a rally near Ankara’s main train station.

“We will not break the halt to hostilities,” he said.

AIR STRIKES

The PKK announced its ceasefire on Saturday, ordering militants to act only if attacked.

A truce over two years old collapsed in July and since then hundreds have been killed in clashes between army and rebels.

On Monday, a twelve-year-old girl died in Diyarbakir’s Sur district after being wounded during an attack on security forces by PKK fighters, a statement from the Diyarbakir governor’s office said.

The general staff said 17 PKK fighters had been killed in air operations in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Sunday, destroying shelters, munitions and gun positions. Two Turkish soldiers were killed in an anti-PKK operation in eastern Erzurum province.

Some 30-35 PKK fighters were killed in raids in northern Iraq, according to security sources, while the army said 14 militants were killed in Diyarbakir province’s Lice district.

Unrest continued elsewhere in the mainly Kurdish region, with the historic Sur district of Diyarbakir city remaining under round-the-clock curfew for the third day on Monday after police on Sunday fired tear gas to prevent protesters entering the district, witnesses said.

Designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, the PKK launched a separatist insurgency in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed. The state launched peace talks with its jailed leader in 2012.

Additional reporting by Seyhmus Cakan in DIYARBAKIR; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Ralph Boulton

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