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Turkey Has Killed Hundreds of PKK Members but Must 'Do More' Against the Islamic State

State media say Turkey's armed forces have killed 771 members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party since Ankara began its "war on terror" four weeks ago, as the US says it must do more to take on IS jihadists.
August 21, 2015, 4:10pm
Photo via EPA

Turkish state media are reporting that the country's armed forces have killed 771 members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) since Ankara began its "war on terror" four weeks ago, as the US says Turkey must do more in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS).

The official Anadolu Agency said "various security sources" had provided the figures, but they could not be independently confirmed. The report said that 430 of the dead were killed in airstrikes on the PKK's Qandil Mountain strongholds in northern Iraq and a further 260 lost their lives in ground operations in Turkey's southeast.

The airstrikes began on July 24 after the PKK killed two police officers in retaliation for a suicide bombing in the border town of Suruc that left 33 pro-Kurdish activists dead. The attacker was trained by IS, but Kurds blamed security forces and the Islamist-leading Justice and Development Party (AKP) for laxity or collusion with the jihadists.

Ankara then said it was beginning a two-pronged "war on terror" targeting both the PKK and IS. So far it has concentrated almost entirely on the militant Kurds, however, and only launched a handful of strikes on IS.

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The PKK — which Turkey views as a terrorist organization due to its history of attacks on civilian and military targets — has since launched a number of assaults on on security forces, killing at least 50 people, including eight in a roadside IED in southeastern Siirte this week.

On Thursday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that Turkey needed to increase its efforts in the fight against IS. Speaking with reporters at a Department of Defence press conference Carter commented that the country must tighten its borders with Syria and Iraq, where IS controls significant amounts of territory, and follow through on commitments to take part in the American-led coalition launching airstrikes on the extremist militants.

Watch **Shane Smith interviewing Ashton Carter here:**

IS has been able to bring in large quantities of equipment, supplies and fighters through Turkey's porous borders, prompting widespread international criticism. Authorities say they have since increased security and claim to have arrested hundreds, but Carter said more should be done.

"We need them also as a neighbor to this conflict zone, as a long-time NATO ally and a responsible member of the anti-ISIL [IS] coalition, to control the border, the long border that they have with both Syria and Iraq, more than it has been controlled over the last year," he said.

Related: NATO Is Cool With Turkey's 'War on Terror' Against The Islamic State and The Kurds

"It is a border over which logistics for ISIL and fighters cross, and so we're looking for them to do more in that regard as well, and we're in active discussions with them in that regard."

Turkey has also allowed US access to the strategic Incirlik airbase, but Carter said while he didn't think leadership were "dragging their feet," current participation was "not enough" and Ankara was now expected to increase its participation in the air campaign against IS.