Thousands of mourners, attending funeral services Monday (June 11th) for three Turkish soldiers, condemned the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organisation and called for the government’s resignation.The three — a lieutenant colonel, a major and a private — were among at least two dozen Turkish troops or pro-government village guards killed in PKK attacks over the last three weeks. They died Saturday in a landmine explosion in Turkey’s southeastern province of Sirnak. Another Turkish soldier was killed by Kurdish rebels in the province of Erzincan late Sunday.
Some 10,000 people gathered for the funeral of Major Ramazan Armutcuoglu in Ankara on Monday, carrying Turkish flags. While President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and high-ranking military officials, including army Chief of Staff General Yasar Buyukanit were met with applause, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and other cabinet members were booed by the crowd, which also called for the government to resign.
The presence of Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc, a senior member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), prompted a similar reaction at the funeral of Lieutenant Colonel Melih Gulova in his hometown of Manisa.
Armutcuoglu and Gulova were the highest-ranking officers killed in clashes with PKK rebels in recent weeks.
Amid growing public frustration with the rising military death toll from PKK attacks, Arinc expressed the government’s determination “to fight terrorism until the very end” and to restore peace in the country.
The third victim of Saturday’s attack was laid to rest in Istanbul after a funeral ceremony attended by local officials and a large group of people.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appealed to the public Monday to refrain from turning funerals into anti-government protests.
“Our martyrs died for the unity of our country, not for separation,” the Turkish daily Zaman quoted him as saying.
Turkey has recently deployed tens of thousands of troops in its restive southeast and along its border with Iraq in a bid to reinforce its presence in a region where the Kurdish militants are active. “Temporary security zones” were also established in several areas last week.
Top Turkish military officials have called for a cross-border operation to deal with nearly 4,000 PKK guerillas believed to be stationed in bases in northern Iraq and used as launchpads for attacks on Turkish territory.
Amid the mounting tension in Turkey’s southeast, Erdogan, Gul, Buyukanit and Land Forces Commander General Ilker Basbug are scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss the situation in the region and possible new measures in the fight against the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the EU.
“Everything that will give a result is among the options,” Gul said on Monday, adding that there was a consensus among the military and the government on further plans of action.
A cross-border operation requires approval by Parliament. The government has not yet moved to obtain such approval.