(Updates with Obama comments in fifth paragraph.)
Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul promised “revenge” after the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, killed at least 26 soldiers in the southeast in its most deadly attack this year.
The four-hour assault early today took place in eight locations in the Yuksekova and Cukurca districts of Hakkari province, NTV news channel reported. The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union, also wounded 18 soldiers, some of whom are in critical condition.
“No one should forget that those who are inflicting this pain upon us will suffer in multitudes,” Gul said in televised remarks. “Those who think they can shake our state with these attacks and bring it into line will see that the revenge for these attacks will be much larger and exacted in multitudes.”
At least 190 people including PKK members, police officers and soldiers have been killed since the organization ended a unilateral cease-fire in February, according to military and government reports. Turkish troops crossed into Iraq to chase militants suspects of carrying out the attack, NTV reported.
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the “outrageous” attack and said the U.S. will “continue our strong cooperation with the Turkish government as it works to defeat the terrorist threat from the PKK.” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. will seek to increase counter-terrorism cooperation with Turkey.
PKK attacks have been rising since June, when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a third term with 50 percent of the vote. He campaigned on a pledge to rewrite the constitution adopted after a 1980 military coup.
Today’s coordinated attack coincided with the first day of talks by a 12-member commission created to work on a new charter. The four parties in the national assembly, including the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, are represented equally in the commission.
“There’s no turning back from this path, regardless of how difficult our work gets due to these developments,” Speaker of Parliament Cemil Cicek said today. “We will curse these events with one hand, yet with the other we will work together with great effort to deliver this charter.”
Erdogan canceled a trip today to Kazakhstan and is discussing the attack with members of his cabinet, including Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin and Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, as well as military commanders, according to the state- run Anatolia news agency.
Official Travel Canceled
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek are among government officials who canceled travel plans abroad.
“The state’s decision is to combat terrorism to the very end without ever compromising and with determination,” Gul said.
Turkey, which has the second-largest army in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has fought the autonomy-seeking Kurdish group for more than two decades in a conflict that has cost more than 40,000 lives.
The fighting between Turkey and the PKK comes after efforts by Erdogan to increase rights for the nation’s Kurds. Political tensions, though, have escalated since the elections on June 12, when the courts barred several pro-Kurdish candidates from entering parliament, culminating in a declaration of Kurdish autonomy in July.
The PKK killed nine people, including five policemen, in a roadside bomb attack yesterday. The organization killed 13 soldiers in an ambush at the southeastern province of Diyarbakir on July 14, which coincided with pro-Kurdish politicians’ declaration of autonomy. That was followed by an attack in Hakkari that killed 10 soldiers and a state-employed militiaman.
Senior generals are traveling to the region and forces will do “everything they can to put an end to this business,” Gul said.
The PKK members entered Turkey from northern Iraq and are returning to their camps, NTV reported. Turkey’s military is targeting the region with artillery and warplanes, aiming to trap PKK members en route to Iraq, according to the news channel. Jets also struck PKK targets in northern Iraq and land forces pushed across the border, NTV said.
“If their calculation is that they are making political gains with terrorist attacks, they’re making a historic mistake,” Gul said.
--With assistance from Nicole Gaouette in Washington. Editors: Terry Atlas, Steven Komarow
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