Bombing Targets Troops in Turkey's Kurdish Area; 5 Civilians Die

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 4, 2008

CAIRO, Jan. 3 -- A bombing near a bus carrying Turkish troops in Turkey's Kurdish southeast killed five civilian bystanders on Thursday, the country's military said.

The attack, which also wounded about 60 civilians and soldiers, substantiated fears that Turkey's escalated campaign against Kurdish guerrillas in neighboring Iraq would increase violence in Turkey itself.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged after the bombing that Turkey's fight against the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, "will continue with the same determination" both inside and outside Turkey.

Thursday's attack involved a bomb left in an empty car on a street in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeastern region. Attackers detonated the bomb by remote control as a bus carrying 45 soldiers rolled by, Turkish authorities said.

The bomb was placed outside a building where high school students were taking college entrance exams. Two of the students were among the dead.

The bombing followed several smaller bomb attacks in Istanbul in recent weeks that killed one person and rattled nerves.

Turkish authorities blamed the PKK for Thursday's bombing. The group, which Turkey and the United States consider a terrorist organization, is fighting for greater autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish minority. Fighting between Turkish forces and the PKK killed 30,000 people at the height of their conflict, from the mid-1980s to 1999.

Increased attacks by Kurdish guerrillas who have taken shelter in neighboring Iraq have again raised tensions. In some months late last year, the number of Turkish soldiers killed in fighting in Turkey equaled the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, said Steven Cook, an expert on Turkey at the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Turkey in mid-December intensified air and ground raids into Iraq. Turkish leaders credited U.S. intelligence information with helping them locate and attack PKK sites in Iraq.

Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq told news agencies last week that they would escalate attacks in Turkey if Turkish warplanes kept up strikes on their bases in northern Iraq.

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