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Pro-Kurdish party protests Turkish raids in Iraq; 2 police injured in blast

The Associated Press
February 6, 2008

ISTANBUL, Turkey: Members of a pro-Kurdish political party set up camp near the Iraq border to protest Turkish military raids on Kurdish rebels based on the other side. Separately, a roadside bomb injured two police officers in a border area where guerrillas are active, local media reported Wednesday.
Activists from the Democratic Society Party drove in dozens of vehicles Tuesday to Mt. Cudi in Sirnak province to demand a peaceful solution to the long conflict between the Turkish state and rebels who seek autonomy. The gathering was likely to infuriate Turkish nationalists, who accuse the Kurdish party of being a political front for the guerrillas.
On Monday, the Turkish military said its warplanes hit dozens of targets of the PKK rebel group in Iraq, a periodic occurrence since the United States said late last year that it would provide intelligence to Turkey to help it hunt Kurdish militants. Washington, in turn, has pressed Turkey to refrain from a major ground offensive across the border that could destabilize the relatively tranquil Kurdish regions of northern Iraq.
The PKK traditionally scales down attacks during the winter, and despite Turkish claims of success, there is no independent confirmation that aerial raids have diminished its fighting capacity. The rebels have not staged any large-scale ambushes since October, but two police were injured in a blast late Tuesday in the town of Yuksekova, in Hakkari province, where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran meet.
Police said the bomb was detonated by remote control as the police vehicle passed by, the Anatolia news agency reported. One officer was seriously hurt in the explosion, which shattered windows in nearby homes and offices. Police set up roadblocks at the entrance of the city to try ti catch the assailants.
In the overnight gathering near Mt. Cudi, Kurdish lawmakers and supporters slept in tents and danced around a camp fire at dawn. They urged the Turkish parliament to rescind the authorization that it gave to the government to carry out cross-border raids against the PKK, saying the guerrillas in turn should refrain from hostilities.
“We don’t need another 30 years or another 30,000 deaths to understand that the policy of violence doesn’t solve the Kurdish problem,” lawmaker Emine Ayla said in a speech from the top of a bus.
Ayla also called for an improvement in the “living and health conditions” of Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of the PKK who is serving a life sentence on an island prison. In defiance of Turkish law, some people in the crowd held posters that showed Ocalan’s image.
Ocalan’s welfare is a chief concern for lawmakers from the Democratic Society Party, reflecting the sway that the imprisoned leader holds over many Kurds. The Democratic Society Party won 20 seats in the 550-seat legislature in general elections last year, leading to hopes that the many disaffected Kurds in Turkey were poised to play a meaningful political role in a state that had effectively denied them a voice for years.
But the mood has soured since then, with prosecutors seeking to close down the party because of allegedly subversive activity. On Wednesday, the leader of the party, Nurettin Demirtas, went on trial on charges that he used forged health documents to avoid military service.
Demirtas, who was jailed for 10 years for PKK membership and denies the current charges, faces up to five years in prison. Most Turkish men must serve in the army for up to 15 months, and many do their service in zones where Kurdish rebels are active.