Middle East

Kurdish rebels attack Turkish military vehicle: officials

A picture taken on June 12, 2007 shows Kurdish PKK fighters patrolling an area in the Iraqi part of Qandil Mountains near their headquarters on the Iraqi-Iranian-Turkish borders. AFP PHOTO/SAFIN HAMED

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Kurdish militants have detonated a bomb under a military vehicle in southeast Turkey, wounding four soldiers, security officials said on Tuesday, in a potential challenge to a fledgling peace process between Ankara and the rebels' jailed leader.

Turkish intelligence officials and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, imprisoned on an island near Istanbul, began talks last October aiming to end a 28-year-old insurgency in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

As the discussions have advanced, violence has dwindled, with one of the most recent PKK attacks coming in January, when its fighters killed a Turkish police officer in the southeastern province of Mardin.

In Monday's attack, militants remotely detonated roadside explosives under a military convoy on a road in the Lice district of Diyarbakir province. Four soldiers in an armoured vehicle were lightly wounded, officials said.

Turkish military units were hunting the perpetrators, Diyarbakir Governor Mustafa Toprak said.

According to Kurdish politicians, the PKK is now observing a de facto ceasefire and Ocalan plans to declare an official halt to hostilities by the Kurdish New Year on March 21.

But Turkish warplanes have continued to bomb militant targets in the mountains of northern Iraq where thousands of rebels are based, drawing warnings from the PKK that they are jeopardising the peace process.

Military operations have also continued in southeast Turkey. Soldiers backed by helicopters launched an operation around Cudi mountain in Sirnak province near the Iraqi border, with artillery units shelling the mountain, officials said.

There was no immediate comment from the PKK on Monday's attack.

Under a plan discussed by Ocalan and government representatives, the PKK would end hostilities and give up its demands for autonomy for Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast in return for greater Kurdish rights, enshrined in the constitution, Turkish media have reported.





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