Turkey has asked Iraq, the United States and Iraqs Kurdish administration to hand over nearly 250 Kurdish rebels operating from rear bases in Iraq, the Turkish Hurriyet daily reported.
The list of 248 includes rebel commanders like Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik and Duran Kalkan, and Ankara wants the handover to be “as soon as possible”, the newspaper said, quoting unnamed senior Turkish officials.
Turkey has also mooted a joint military operation “if necessary”, Hurriyet said.
“The net is tightening”, an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
According to experts, there are some 2,000 Kurdish rebels holed up in Northern Iraq from where they stage attacks on Turkish territory.
However, Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for Iraqi Kurdistan’s peshmerga fighters, could not confirm that the list had been handed over.
“These names are not those of people living officially in the [Kurdistan autonomous] region. They live in Turkey where they undertake their criminal activities”, Yawar said.
“The Kurdistan government can’t arrest them because they are not in the region… We are not part of the problem. We want the problem to be solved peacefully”, he said.
Peshmergas are former Kurdish guerrillas who fought against the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein and led a campaign for autonomy for the Iraqi Kurdish minority in northern parts of the country.
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — considered a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community — has been waging a 25-year-old campaign for Kurdish self-rule that has claimed some 45,000 lives.
The PKK has significantly escalated attacks against Turkish targets after jailed rebel leader Abdallah Ocalan said in May that he was abandoning efforts for peace with Turkey and the rebels called off a unilateral truce last month.
Turkish General Ilker Basbug, the chief of the General Staff, recently strongly criticized Iraq’s Kurdish administration for failing to take action against PKK rebels.
More than 5,000 demonstrators clashed with police last Sunday in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir after a rally in support of Kurdish rebels.
Protestors gathered in the city to protest against Turkish security forces, whom they accuse of mutilating the bodies of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels killed in recent fighting, and not returning them to their families.
The protestors threw rocks and sticks at riot police, who responded with tear gas. At least 10 demonstrators were arrested.
An estimated 45,000 people have died since the PKK took up arms in 1984.
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