Kurdish Rebels in Northern Iraq Threaten War in Case of Crackdown
Monday 12 May 2003
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey - Turkey s outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has warned that it will retaliate with force if either Turkey or the United States move to purge northern Iraq of its militants.
Some 5,000 rebels are believed to have found refuge in the mountainous area across the border since 1999, when the PKK declared an end to its 15-year armed struggle for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey and withdrew into Iraq.
But a top PKK official warned Turkish and US troops not to drive out Kurdish rebels in the area, which has been outside of Baghdad s control since the 1991 Gulf war.
It would be misjudgment for Turkey to count on the United States against us.... Turkey should not play with fire, Mustafa Karasu, a member of the PKK s leadership council, said late on Sunday on the Europe-based pro-Kurdish Medya-TV, monitored here.
No force could expel us from here. That is day-dreaming... If they crack down on us, we will restart the war, he added, without giving details.
Ankara maintains several thousand troops in northern Iraq to hunt down PKK militants and is counting on US soldiers present there to crack down on the group, which Washington also describes as a terrorist organization .
A senior US official said in a Turkish television interview last week that the Washington administration was determined to purge northern Iraq of the PKK, and hinted of possible moves against the rebels.