Bitter cost of fighting between PKK, military

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News – 11.9.2012 –  2012 has been a bloody year so far in the battle between the military and the PKK as hundreds of militants and dozens of soldiers have been killed during the battle.

Some 373 “terrorists have been neutralized” since February amid the deaths of 88 soldiers so far this year, the chief of General Staff said yesterday, noting that the military had conducted 974 operations within the country’s borders alone since April. The statement came hours after two soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded in clashes in the eastern province of Hakkari. Amid numerous recent clashes, however, the military brass refuted widespread claims that the Turkish armed forces were “stranded” in military bases and posts.

“Our operators are on active duty in rural areas,” the chief of General Staff said in a written statement. “Between April 1 and Sept. 1, 400 operations were conducted in Hakkari, 328 in Şırnak, 114 in Siirt and 132 in Tunceli.”

During these operations, 373 “terrorists were neutralized,” according to the statement. “Some 330 terrorists were killed, 10 were wounded and 33 were captured alive, bringing the total number of neutralized terrorists inside the country to 373 from February to the end of August,” it said. The same statement said 88 military personnel were killed this year as of Sept. 6. Fifty-four of those killed were professional army members, the statement added, in response to criticism that people on compulsory military service were sent out on operations without proper training.

“Troops that have 10 weeks of training are used in non-operational missions such as securing roads or observation missions,” the army said. “The military operations are conducted by professional troops, accompanied by village guards and special police forces.” All operations that resulted in the death of military personnel are investigated both administratively and by the judiciary, the army said. The numbers indicate a sharp increase in the number of PKK militants killed when compared to last year. According to official data, 234 PKK militants were killed in 2011, while a total of 137 army members and police officers were killed.

The army statement also said information gathered from sources is carefully inspected before it can be considered as intelligence to ensure the safety of military personnel. The statement also criticized retired army members for commenting on the terror fight in the media. “The public is misinformed by using the remarks of people who had their duties in the region before 2000,” the statement said, adding that the Chief of Staff should be the sole source of information.