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Turkey and Iran bomb Kurdish rebels in Iraq

Josef Litobarski
30 July 2008

Turkish jets attacked position in northern Iraq belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in retaliation for the bombings in Istanbul on Sunday which killed 17 people. Firat News, a pro-Kurdish news agency, claims the air-strikes were followed by shelling from Iran. Turkey's military has admitted in the past that the two countries have co-ordinated military strikes against Kurdish rebels positions in northern Iraq.

The toD verdict: Turkey has launched attacks on PKK bases in Iraq since December 2007, including a week-long ground offensive in February 2008, when it claimed to have killed at least 240 Kurdish militants. The Turkish government hopes these most recent air-strikes, in the wake of the Istanbul bombings, will send out the message that it is responding forcefully to the PKK.

The PKK, however, has denied that it carried out the bombings on Sunday, instead blaming the attack on secularists trying to topple Turkey's government - currently led by the "Islamist-leaning" Justice and Development Party (AKP). There is a general feeling of uncertainty in Turkey as to exactly who carried out the bombings, with some analysts blaming the attacks on a shadowy ultra-nationalist organisation, the "Ergenekon network," which wants to return Turkey to military rule. Keep up to date with the latest developments and sharpest perspectives in a world of strife and struggle.

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It is the timing of the attacks which has made people suspicious. The governing party was formed by members of the Islamic Welfare Party when it was banned and removed from government by the Turkish military in the late 90's for being "anti-secular." Now, with Turkey still coming to terms with the aftermath of the Istanbul bombings, the constitutional court has announced it intends to proceed with a case against the AKP, accusing it, like the Islamic Welfare Party, of being "anti-secular." If the court rules against the AKP it could be banned, leaving Turkey without a government.

All of this adds up to a very tense political situation in Turkey. The strikes on Iraq, almost certainly carried out without permission from Baghdad, only add to the tension in a region already on the edge.

18 bombs defused in 24 hours in India

An unexploded bomb was discovered in the port city of Surat in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Wednesday, taking the total number of devices successfully defused in the state this week to nineteen. Yesterday, police rushed to defuse a series of eighteen bombs, one after another, which had been planted throughout the city. Forensic experts suspect faulty circuitry prevented the bombs from detonating.

A series of bombings in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat over the weekend killed over 40 people, and there are concerns that bombs which failed to detonate then may still be hidden. Two separate Islamic militants groups have claimed responsibility for the bombings on Tuesday, one group suggesting that the bombings had been in retaliation for the 2002 Gujarat riots which left over one thousand people dead, mostly Muslims.

Iraqi forces launch major operation

Iraqi security forces on Wednesday began conducting a sweep of Diyala province, including house-to-house searches, checkpoints, and a ban on all unofficial traffic. Nearly 50,000 Iraqi soldiers, backed by US intelligence, logistics and fire-support, are involved in the operation which Iraqi officials in the region expect to last about two weeks. The US military, which has been training Iraqi forces since the 2003 invasion, hopes the operation will demonstrate their capability to deal independently with the insurgency ahead of any proposed US troop pull-out.

Rival factions clash in Nigeria

Rival militant factions in Nigeria have clashed in a suspected turf war, killing at least four people, including one soldier and a civilian, according to security officials on Wednesday. Analysts are concerned that the clashes may signal a rupture between several militant groups affiliated with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), possibly leading to the further deterioration of an already messy security situation in Nigeria's oil-rich delta region. The instability threatens to push up global oil prices, with Royal Dutch Shell confirming on Monday that MEND had made good on their recent promise to attack major oil-pipelines in the region. Shell announced it would be unable to meet some supply contracts because of the pipeline attack, which marks the fourth time this year Shell has been forced to delay contracts because of attacks.

Pakistan army fights Swat valley offensive

More than 25 Taliban militants have been killed in overnight battles with the Pakistani army in the Swat valley region of north-western Pakistan, according to an army spokesperson on Wednesday. Pakistani authorities had signed a peace deal with local Taliban leaders in May, but the Taliban accuses Pakistan of breaking the agreement and violence in the region has increased. On Tuesday, Taliban fighters raided a police post and took 30 officers and paramilitary soldiers hostage. Pakistan has come under increasing pressure from the Bush administration because of the peace deals it has been making with the Taliban, and because of alleged ties between Pakistani intelligence and militants in Afghanistan. There has been speculation recently that the US is preparing to take unilateral action against Pakistan's militants.

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