260 PKK Members Killed in Turkey strikes

260 PKK Members  Killed in Turkey strikes260 PKK Members  Killed in Turkey strikes

Around 260 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party have been killed and hundreds wounded in Ankara’s weeklong campaign of airstrikes against targets of the group inside Turkey and in northern Iraq, the official Anatolia news agency said on Saturday.

Without citing its sources, Anatolia said that among those wounded was Nurettin Demirtas, the brother of the leader of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, Selahattin Demirtas, AFP reported.

“Up until now 260 (PKK members) have been rendered ineffective (killed) and 380 to 400 have been identified as injured, including the brother of Selahattin Demirtas, Nurettin Demirtas,” Anatolia said. The airstrikes are expected to continue, it added.

Ankara has launched a two-pronged “anti-terror” offensive against Islamic State militants in Syria and the PKK camps after a wave of attacks inside the country. But so far the bombardments have focused far more on the Kurdish forces.

In the latest airstrikes on Friday, 28 Turkish F-16s destroyed 65 targets of the PKK, including shelters and arms depots, it said.

The heaviest airstrikes were on Thursday, when 80 Turkish aircraft hit 100 targets of the PKK, Anatolia said.

The Turkish government has so far refused to officially disclose casualty figures, with one official saying that “this is not a soccer game.”

But the sheer numbers of planes involved in the daily strikes on the PKK targets in northern Iraq has given an idea of the scale of the operation and raised concern in some western capitals.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday urged Turkey not to “tear down the bridges” that had been built over the last years with its Kurdish minority.

The PKK’s call for greater rights and power for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, begun more than 30 years ago, has left tens of thousands dead. The current violence has shattered a ceasefire declared in 2013.

Selahattin Demirtas openly acknowledges that his elder brother Nurettin went to the Kandil Mountain in northern Iraq where the PKK’s military headquarters are based.

“I don’t even know if he’s dead or alive,” Selahattin Demirtas said in an interview earlier this week.

 Snap Election Looming Large

Turkey is without a full time government as it presses ahead with cross-border military operations against IS militants in Syria and Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called for early elections if efforts to form a coalition yield no results after the ruling party lost its overall majority in June 7 elections.

Some critics accuse Erdogan of launching the military operation in the hope of triggering early elections to reverse the ruling Justice and Development Party’s lackluster performance in the legislative polls.

“It remains to be seen if a coalition will be formed,” Erdogan told reporters on his plane while traveling on an official visit from China to Indonesia, the Hurriyet newspaper and other media reported.

“If not, we should turn to the national will immediately so that people will decide again and we will emerge out of the current situation,” he said.

Erdogan was expected to land in Islamabad on Saturday to hold a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on enhancement of bilateral relations and global issues of mutual interest.

 No Coalition

Erdogan made clear he had little enthusiasm for coalitions.

“If we expect them (coalitions) to bring benefits to our country, it is in vain. Investments will not flow if there is no stability and trust.”

The AKP took power in 2002 as a single party government after rocky coalition governments in the 1990s and a severe financial meltdown in 2001.

Erdogan also said the Syrian Kurds were seeking “to form a corridor from the utmost east to the Mediterranean” but IS blocked their plans in Jarablus in northern Syria on the Turkish border, where extremists and Kurdish forces clashed.

Turkey sees the Kurdish YPG militia fighting IS in northern Syria as a local offshoot of the PKK and sharply opposes the idea of an autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria.