ANKARAÂ – Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul has postponed a planned trip to Africa this week due to a major Turkish ground offensive against Kurdish PKK rebels in northern Iraq, the state Anatolian news agency said on Monday.
Gul had been due to leave on Tuesday on a four-day tour of Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo.
Earlier on Monday, Gul paid an unexpected visit to the headquarters of the military General Staff in Ankara and received a briefing on the campaign, which began last Thursday.
“The trip was postponed because of the land offensive of the Turkish armed forces against the terrorist organization in northern Iraq,” Anatolian said.
Gul, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, government ministers and the head of the military General Staff were expected to attend the funeral in Ankara later on Monday of several soldiers killed in the ground offensive.
The General Staff says 15 of its soldiers and at least 112 rebels have been killed since the offensive began.
Ankara says it has the right under international law to hunt and kill members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who use the mountains of northern Iraq as a base from which to stage attacks on civilian and military targets inside Turkey.
Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since the group launched its armed struggle in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey.
The PKK is classed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.