Turkish special forces intervene in Iraq

The Turkish military carried out a ground operation against guerillas of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq Nov. 6, followed by airstrikes in the  Kandil Mountains along the border in the following days. Turkish Maroon Beret troops crossed the border and went five kilometers into northern Iraqi to carry out an operation against PKK forces, and returned to Turkey after completing the operation. No official statements have been released by the General Staff about the ground operation pr air strikes, but they were confirmed by local officials on both the Turkish and Iraqi sides of the border. Skirmishes were also reported in Turkey's southeastern province of Şırnak, leaving at least three PKK fighters dead, while 23 people were detained in the eastern province of Van on charges of attacking schools with Molotov cocktails over the past months. This past summer saw an upsurge in PKK attacks in southeast Turkey, notably in the Hakkari region. (Reuters, Nov. 9; Today's Zaman via Phantom Report, Nov. 7)

Turkey: 700 Kurdish prisoners on hunger strike

Thousands have held demonstrations in Ankara, Istanbul and Diyarbakir over the past month to show solidarity with Kurdish political prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Turkey. About 70 Kurdish prisoners started an indefinite hunger strike in prisons across the country on Sept. 12. In the ensuing weeks, hundreds more prisoners have joined them, with the total refusing food now standing at 715. Their demands include greater cultural and political rights for Trukey's Kurds, the country's largest ethnic minority that now numbers some 20 million. Most of the strikers are supporters of the outlawed Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), the so-called "urban branch" of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is labelled a "terrorist organization." They come from a wide range of backgrounds: journalists, students, teachers, professionals, lawyers, town mayors, and even two elected members of parliament. The strikers’ first demand is the "right to defense in Kurdish"—that is, the ability to give their testimony in Turkish courts in their native tongue. The Turkish government is refusing to consider their demands, and has repeatedly unleahsed repression against protesters marching in support of the hunger strikers.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq inaugurates new campaign of attacks

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, top leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, announced in an audio message July 22 a new plan to free imprisoned militants, attack the Iraq's judiciary and retake lost territory. "We are setting off a new stage of our struggle, with the launch of a plan named 'Breaking the Walls,'" said the message, which urged the Sunni tribal leaders to send their men to join his movement. "On the occasion of the return of the Islamic State to the regions that we had evacuated from, I urge you to send your sons to join the mujahedeen to defend your religion and honor." He also threatened the US, saying "You will see them [al-Qaeda militants] at the heart of your country with God's willing, since our war against you has just started." (WSJRFE/RL, July 22)

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