Turkey extends mandate for Iraq strikes on Kurd rebels
ANKARA — Turkey's parliament on Wednesday extended the government's mandate to order military strikes against Kurdish rebels holed up in neighbouring Iraq.
The vote comes as increasing attacks by Kurdish rebels also targeting civilians are piling pressure on the Turkish government, which has threatened to launch an incursion into northern Iraq by its land forces to root out rebel bases.
Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted the motion that gives Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan permission to order strategic strikes or large-scale incursions into Iraq for one more year.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey's military strikes based on the fresh mandate would target the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) bases and logistics in northern Iraq, not Iraq or the Iraqi people.
"We have a strong will in the fight against terrorism," Davutoglu told the assembly.
All opposition parties, except for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), gave solid backing to the government in Wednesday's vote.
Turkey has renewed since 2007 the motion giving a green light for the Turkish military to conduct cross-border raids to hit PKK hideouts in northern Iraq.
The current authorisation expires on October 17.
The clashes between the PKK and the security forces have increased in recent months and since mid-June more than 120 people were killed in clashes and attacks by the rebels.
In response, the Turkish government has threatened to launch a ground operation into northern Iraq.
Turkish warplanes have bombed rebel bases in northern Iraq several times since August, killing between 145 and 160 rebels, according to the general staff.
The air strikes had threathened relations with neighbouring Iraq, which summoned Turkey's ambassador in August to demand an immediate end to the attacks, after it was alleged that an Iraqi family of seven were killed by bombings in Sulaimaniyah province in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.
Turkey rejected the allegations.
Meanwhile Turkish security forces recently toughened their clampdown against Kurds in urban Turkey by arresting hundreds of people, mostly members of the BDP for alleged links to rebels.
Since 2009, more than 4000 people were detained around Turkey over suspected links to the urban wing of the PKK, according media reports. In last six months, courts have sent 1,530 of them to jail pending the trial, daily Radikal said.
Currently 13 mayors and five parliamentarians of the BDP are in jail with the same accusation, it added.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives.