Turkey pays final respects to 24 slain soldiers

Funeral ceremonies were held Thursday in several Turkish cities for 24 soldiers slain in Wednesday’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attacks, while Turkish warplanes and helicopter gunships attacked the terrorist group’s bases in the second day of an air and ground offensive against the PKK in northern Iraq.

President Gül, PM Erdoğan and Hasan Yılmaz (2nd R), father of Turkish soldier Yunus Yılmaz, pray during the soldier's funeral ceremony at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara.

President Gül, PM Erdoğan and Hasan Yılmaz (2nd R), father of Turkish soldier Yunus Yılmaz, pray during the soldier's funeral ceremony at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara.

The flag-draped coffins of the slain soldiers were flown to several cities across the country on Thursday for burial. Military funeral ceremonies are scheduled to be held for the slain soldiers in their hometowns. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan postponed his scheduled meeting with Nechirvan Barzani, the number two leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and former prime minister of the Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq, for almost two hours, in order to attend funeral prayers for Pvt. Yunus Yılmaz in Ankara.

The PKK staged simultaneous attacks on military and police targets along the border on Wednesday, killing 24 soldiers and wounding 18 others.

The killings outraged many in Turkey and fueled nationalist sentiment. Many protesters, from high school students to post office workers, carrying huge Turkish flags and chanting anti-PKK slogans, marched in Ankara on Thursday. Several newspapers condemned the attack with banner headlines over a black background. In another attack, on Thursday, PKK terrorists wounded three soldiers in a roadside bomb attack near the town of Altınova in the southeastern province of Muş, Muş Governor Ali Çınar said. The three soldiers were reported to be in stable condition, he said.

President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Erdoğan vowed to respond to the PKK in kind, as the government mounted further pressure on Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdish administration to try to prevent PKK attacks on Turkish targets from Iraqi soil.

Wednesday’s attack was the deadliest PKK attack in 18 years and the fourth deadliest since the PKK started its campaign of separatist violence nearly three decades ago. The attacks come only a day after five policemen and four civilians, including a 2-year-old and a 10-year-old, were killed by a roadside bomb planted by the PKK in nearby Bitlis province. Wednesday’s attacks also came only days after Turkish President Abdullah Gül visited troops in the region to boost morale in an area that has seen increased violence in recent months. On Thursday Parliament will hold an emergency session to discuss new measures against the PKK, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ announced after Wednesday’s terrorism summit.

The PKK’s terrorist activities have been a central concern for Turkish governments since the organization took up arms in 1984, and began waging a bloody war for autonomy, which has cost more than 40,000 lives over almost three decades. Despite fitful cease-fires, the terrorist organization organizes attacks from its bases in northern Iraq and as of July stepped up its attacks, which have claimed the lives of dozens of security personnel as well many civilians.



20 October 2011, Thursday / TODAY’S ZAMAN WITH WIRES, İSTANBUL