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9/11/15

Turkey: Is Turkey’s President Dragging His Country to War for Votes? - by Thomas Seibert

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is betting that increased pressure on Kurdish rebels in southeast Anatolia will be a vote-getter in snap elections less than two months away.

But a flare-up of Kurdish rebel attacks that have inflicted the heaviest losses on Turkish soldiers in years has Turks wondering whether Erdogan is dragging the country to war to suit his own political needs.

So devastating was the shock of the latest attack by rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) near the Turkish border with Iraq on Sunday that the government and the military waited more than 24 hours before revealing that 16 soldiers had died. It was the highest death toll for the Turkish army in a single combat event since 2011.

Fighters from the PKK, a rebel group designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and Europe, attacked a military convoy in the town of Daglica and blew up a number of military vehicles with roadside bombs. The well-connected security analyst Metin Gurcan said on Twitter that 500 to 600 rebels attacked the soldiers, while bad weather prevented Turkish attack helicopters from helping the encircled troops. The PKK said at least 31 soldiers were killed.

In the aftermath, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held emergency meetings with advisers and Turkey’s chief of general staff, Hulusi Akar, and requested a meeting with opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a rare step in Turkey’s polarized political scene. Addressing the public Monday evening, Davutoglu pledged that the mountains of southeastern Anatolia would be “cleansed” of rebels.

While the government is promising a tough response to the new PKK attack, Kurdish politicians say government security forces are responsible for the killings of six civilians in the southeastern city of Cizre, which the army and police have closed off while they fight the PKK. A delegation of the legal Kurdish party HDP said after a visit to the city that police were stopping ambulances carrying injured and sick people to the hospital. A 10-year-old girl was killed by a police sniper inside her own home, they said.

Read more: Is Turkey’s President Dragging His Country to War for Votes? - The Daily Beast

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