Kurdish Strike on Turkish Forces Raises Stakes A deadly attack by Kurdish guerrillas on Turkish soldiers raises more fears that Turkey will invade Northern Iraq in pursuit of the Kurds. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates conferred with his Turkish counterpart Sunday.
NPR logo

Kurdish Strike on Turkish Forces Raises Stakes

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/15496204/15496195" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Kurdish Strike on Turkish Forces Raises Stakes

Kurdish Strike on Turkish Forces Raises Stakes

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/15496204/15496195" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Kurdish guerrillas killed at least 17 Turkish soldiers in southeastern Turkey today. It was the single deadliest clash in years between the Turkish army and the rebels who are based in northern Iraq. The ambush sent the Turkish government into crisis talks and all these could complicate the U.S. war in Iraq. More on that in a moment.

We begin with NPR's Ivan Watson in Istanbul.

Ivan, tell me about the ambush. What happened?

IVAN WATSON: Well, according to the Turkish government and Turkish media, the battle erupted in the Turkish border town of Dacliga, when rebels ambushed a Turkish convoy - military convoy - by blowing up a bridge. The fighting has continued throughout the day on Sunday. And eyewitnesses say they're hearing artillery fire shortly before midnight still going on in that border area. According to Turkey's defense minister, not only were 17 soldiers killed but 10 soldiers are currently missing.

The PKK claims it has captured eight Turkish soldiers and caused many more casualties. It also claims that, in fact, it was the Turks that started this battle by crossing the guard(ph) border first. And that now the Kurdish rebels are fighting in self-defense from Iraqi territory. That's actually something that the Iraqi government has since denied, saying that the Turks have yet to cross the border in this battle.

In addition to this, a minivan full of - part of a wedding party convoy - full of civilians was hit by a landmine in the same town of Dacliga today. More than a dozen people wounded in that explosion.

SEABROOK: Ivan, what did the Kurdish government say after its emergency meeting?

WATSON: Well, the Turkish government - after that meeting, the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he emerged from talks, spoke live on Turkish TV and he called for calm and for common sense. He said there was no room for emotion in the fight against terrorism. He pointed out that Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, had called him and asked for, quote, "a few more days before taking action."

He also said he was prepared to launch cross-border military attacks despite previous objections from the U.S. and the Iraqi government. He said that Turkey was already paying the price for this conflict and he was ready to pay any additional cost Turkey may incur by launching a cross-border attack that would be condemned by the international community.

SEABROOK: And Ivan, very quickly, what are ordinary Turks saying about this latest attack?

WATSON: We're already seeing protests around the country - people waving Turkish flags, denouncing the PKK. It's a rainy evening here and there are about a hundred Turkish teenagers waving flags in nearby Taksim Square. We've also had reports of vandalism against Kurdish political party officers. And in fact, Prime Minister Erdogan has called - urged Turks not to attack people that, he says, had no involvement in this PKK battle.

SEABROOK: NPR's Ivan Watson in Istanbul.

Thanks very much.

WATSON: You're welcome, Andrea.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.