Turkish army urges Kurds to surrender

Türkiye Materials 27 November 2007 18:18 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - The Turkish military, massed in increasing numbers for a possible assault on Kurdish rebels in Iraq, has begun dropping leaflets urging rebels to surrender and "be welcomed with love," an official said Tuesday.

In recent weeks, Turkey has moved more soldiers and artillery units to the border with Iraq for a possible cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebel bases.

At the same time, with an amnesty in effect, army helicopters have dropped thousands of leaflets on mountain paths used by the rebels to infiltrate Turkey, a government official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He did not say when the campaign began.

"Make your decision and leave the organization. Go to the nearest military unit or police station. You will be welcomed with love," said one leaflet found by a villager on a mountain path near the border town of Cukurca, the private Dogan news agency reported Tuesday.

The amnesty program has existed for 17 years but has failed to lure most rebels into giving up. The announcement of the new campaign coincided with the 29th anniversary of the founding of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The leaflet, bearing a photograph of a rebel and a smiling Turkish commando, promised amnesty for rebels who have voluntarily left the group and are not engaged in fighting. Rebel leaders who share critical information about the group also qualify for the amnesty.

The leaflets were dropped from military helicopters taking off from a base near Cukurca, where the borders of Iran, Iraq and Turkey converge, Dogan reported.

In another leaflet, the news agency reported, the telephone numbers of police and paramilitary police were listed, along with a slogan: "The road to freedom is very close."

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in the predominantly Kurdish southeast since 1984, when it launched its first attack on a military outpost.

Public pressure on the government to attack rebel bases in northern Iraq has built up as rebel attacks have increased.

The United States, however, worries that a Turkish incursion could bring instability to the north - a region that has been the calmest part of Iraq - and could set a precedent for other countries, such as Iran, that have conflicts with Kurdish rebels.

Washington has agreed to share intelligence about rebel positions in the region. And the Iraqi Kurdish administration in northern Iraq has promised to prevent the rebels from attacking Turkey.

But Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said in the U.S. that Iraqi Kurdish authorities have not taken any "satisfactory measures" against the PKK so far, the state-run Anatolia news agency said Tuesday.