ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Syrian security forces detained 400 people in five cities in Syria in an operation against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatist guerrilla group, Turkey’s state news agency Anatolian said on Thursday.
Turkey has sought the support of its neighbours in the region and the United States in its fight against the outlawed group, which has killed more than 50 Turkish soldiers in the last two months in escalating violence.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, facing public anger at the government’s inability to stem the rising violence ahead of next year’s elections, has called on allies to cut off funds for the rebels and extradite suspected militants to Turkey.
The PKK is active in Turkey’s impoverished southeast as well as Syria and in Iran through an offshoot called the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).
Syria and Turkey came to the brink of war in 1998 over Syrian support for the PKK, but political and trade ties between Ankara and Damascus have warmed since then.
The PKK also has bases in northern Iraq, where Turkey and the United States have agreed to share intelligence on the group’s activities. Washington and the European Union, like Ankara, consider the PKK a terrorist organisation.
The PKK has stepped up attacks on the military after calling off its one-year truce on June 1, accusing the government of failing to find a political resolution to the 26-year conflict. Four Turkish soldiers were wounded on Wednesday in a PKK attack in Van in the southeast.
The AK Party’s efforts to expand cultural and political rights for Turkey’s Kurdish citizens, which make up around 15-20 percent of the population, was met with hostility in parliament and lost Erdogan political capital in nationalist circles.
The PKK took up arms against Turkey in 1984 in a bid to carve out an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, and more than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have died in the war. (Writing by Thomas Grove; Editing by Louise Ireland)