Turkey on Monday announced the detention of more than 700 people over alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), after it accused the group of executing 13 Turkish nationals in northern Iraq.
Over the weekend, Ankara said PKK rebels had executed the 13 kidnapped Turks, while the PKK blamed Turkish airstrikes on their bases for their deaths. Αccording to the Turkish Defence Minister, Hulusi Akar, the victims, which were mostly soldiers, police and civilians, lost their lives during a Turkish military operation against the PKK and were found in a cave complex in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s mountainous Gare area.
Twelve of them were shot in the head and one in the shoulder, Akar said on Sunday.
The US State Department said in a statement the same day that it “deplores the death of Turkish citizens”, if the reports were confirmed, prompting Erdogan to accuse Washington of supporting the Kurdish militants and to label the statement as “deplorable”.
“You say you don’t support the terrorists but you are actually on their side,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.
The incident is expected to further fuel a spat between the two NATO allies, with Erdogan slamming the US for supporting the Syrian Kurdish militias of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as linked to PKK.
PKK has been classified as a terrorist organisation by the US and Western countries, as well as by the European Parliament.