PKK warns Turkey rebels 'ready to step up fight'

PKK warns Turkey rebels 'ready to step up fight'
The outlawed movement is ready to intensify its fight against Turkey, the Kurdish rebel PKK leader has said, as Ankara attempts to force the group into surrender.
3 min read
25 April, 2016
The PKK has promised to fight back against Ankara's crackdown on Kurds [AFP]

The Kurdish rebel PKK movement is ready to step up its fight against Turkey in response to Ankara's crackdown, its leader said in a BBC interview published on Monday.

Since the collapse of a two-year ceasefire with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) last year, Turkish government forces have been waging a blistering military campaign against the group in the southeast of the country.

PKK leader Cemil Bayik said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was "escalating this war".

"The Kurds will defend themselves to the end, so long as this is the Turkish approach - of course the PKK will escalate the war," he said.

Erdogan this month said that 355 members of the security forces had been killed in fighting, as well as over 5,000 PKK members - although this could not be independently verified.

The PKK has been blamed for a string of attacks in Turkey in recent months, while two bombings in Ankara this year were claimed by a group calling itself the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a radical splinter group of the rebel movement.

The Kurds will defend themselves to the end, so long as this is the Turkish approach - of course the PKK will escalate the war.
- Cemil Bayik

Bayik denies trying to create a separate Kurdish state within Turkey.

"We don't want to separate from Turkey and set up a state. We don't want to divide Turkey. We want to live within the borders of Turkey on our own land freely... The struggle will continue until the Kurds' innate rights are accepted," he said.

[From the archives] Video: NATO 'ready to support
Turkey against any threat'

The PKK was ready to escalate the conflict "not only in Kurdistan, but in the rest of Turkey as well", he added.

Erdogan "wants the Kurds to surrender. If they don't surrender, he wants to kill all Kurds. He says this openly - he doesn't hide it," Bayik said.

The PKK launched a bloody insurgency against the Turkish government in 1984 seeking independence, beginning a decades-long fight for greater autonomy and rights for Kurds which has left 40,000 dead.

It later watered down its demands to instead seek greater autonomy with cultural and language rights. Jailed PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan called a truce in March 2013, but tensions over the Syrian conflict kick-started the violence last year in the wake of disappointing election results for Erdogan.

Erdogan has proposed stripping Turkish citizenship from supporters of Kurdish rebels and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is trying to alter Turkey's constitution, to allow prosecutions of pro-Kurdish lawmakers accused of "terrorist propaganda".