ISTANBUL: Kurdish rebels on Sunday warned of retaliation over the deaths of three Kurdish protesters shot by Turkish police, heightening tensions in the fragile peace process between Ankara and the outlawed PKK group.
"The government should know that these attacks and killings eliminate the non-conflict environment and give guerrilla forces the right to reprisal," the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) said in a statement carried by Kurdish news agency Firat.
Two protesters were killed last Friday in clashes with police in the Yuksekova district of Kurdish-dominated southeastern Turkey. The unrest was sparked by claims that Kurdish rebel cemeteries had been destroyed, an allegation denied by Turkish authorities.
A third Kurdish protester, who was seriously wounded during the clashes, died of his injuries in hospital on Wednesday, medics said.
The violence led to demonstrations in several towns as well as Turkey's biggest city Istanbul.
Around a dozen people, including four policemen, were injured in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir alone, and at least 22 protesters were arrested, according to press reports.
Four Turkish soldiers were briefly kidnapped last weekend in a rural area near Diyarbakir by Kurdish rebels and freed on Monday after intervention by lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), a local security source said.
The latest incidents come after months of calm between the Turkish state and the PKK, which declared a truce in March following clandestine negotiations between PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and the country's spy agency.
The process stalled after Kurdish rebels announced in September they were suspending their retreat from Turkish soil, accusing the government of failing to deliver on promised reforms.
"The Turkish state's attitude has already violated the ceasefire process since the very beginning. It is only those intending to start a war who would resort to such actions in such a period," the statement said.
"Ceasefire does not mean the silence of one side and the military preparation and attack of the other side."
The PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, launched an insurgency seeking self-rule in the southeast in 1984 that has claimed about 45,000 lives.