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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Kurdish Rebels Kill 13 Turkish Soldiers

July 23, 2011

ISTANBUL — Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey ambushed a group of soldiers near Diyarbakir on Thursday, killing 13 and wounding 7, the Turkish military said on its Web site.

The attack, one of the deadliest on Turkish forces in recent years, was denounced by political leaders across the country. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had the strength and determination to defeat terrorists and would do so “without ever compromising on democracy, law and brotherhood.”

In the ambush, which was mounted in a predominantly Kurdish rural area, the rebels used small arms and hand grenades, which started a fire, the military said. Seven insurgents were also killed in the fighting, the Turkish military said.

A major rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, had warned that it would start a new wave of attacks if the government failed to produce by Friday a tangible plan for resolving the Kurdish conflict.

The group, known as the P.K.K., which are the initials of its Kurdish name, intensified its attacks in the region in June, killing several soldiers, when 36 Kurdish candidates won seats in a parliamentary election. Local courts blocked 6 of the 36 from taking their seats because they are in jail on terrorism charges. The remaining successful Kurdish candidates then refused to take the oath of office.

Hours before the attack on Thursday, some of the Kurdish candidates met with officials of the governing party, the Justice and Development Party, in Ankara, the capital.

But the talks ended without an agreement after the Kurds insisted that one successful candidate, Hatip Dicle, be allowed to take his seat in Parliament; Mr. Dicle has been convicted on charges related to terrorism.

At the same time, more than 800 Kurdish delegates met in Diyarbakir and issued a declaration of “democratic autonomy” for the predominantly Kurdish region. They said they chose the term to make it clear that they were not trying to challenge Turkey’s territorial or national integrity, but rather asserting their freedom and ethnic rights within Turkey.

The Justice and Development Party has expanded political and cultural rights for more than 12 million ethnic Kurds in Turkey during its nearly 10 years as the governing party. But the party has dismissed demands that Kurdish ethnic identity be recognized in a new constitution that Parliament is expected to draft in its next term.

Many people say the current Constitution, written under the auspices of the military after a coup in 1980, is a source of ethnic friction and discontent. But in the efforts to resolve the conflict, both the government and the opposition have excluded the leading pro-Kurdish political party, Peace and Democracy, because of accusations that it acts as the political wing of the P.K.K.

Kurdish leaders expressed sadness over the violence on Thursday, without denouncing the P.K.K., which Western nations classify as a terrorist organization.

“Youngsters pay the price of politics falling short of resolutions, of uncourageous politics,” said Selahattin Demirtas, deputy chairman of Peace and Democracy, according to the semiofficial Anatolian news agency.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 22, 2011



An article last Friday about an ambush of Turkish soldiers that the military said was carried out by Kurdish rebels misstated the name of a pro-Kurdish political party. It is Peace and Democracy, not Peace and Development.

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