Kurdish rebels warn of 'hell' in Turkey

ANTALYA, Turkey - A Kurdish rebel group has threatened to turn Turkey into "hell" after a two-day bombing spree which killed three people and wounded dozens of others at popular tourist resorts.

The Kurdish Liberation Hawks (TAK) said it bombed a busy shopping area in the coastal resort Antalya yesterday, killing three people and wounding dozens, including European tourists.

The blast followed four bombs in the Mediterranean resort of Marmaris and in Istanbul that wounded 27 people.

"We vow to turn the monstrous TC (Turkish Republic) into hell ... with our warriors who have pledged revenge," TAK said in a statement on its website. It was not immediately possible to verify its authenticity.

TAK and the larger outlawed hardline separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) oppose Ankara's policies on the Kurdish region. The PKK, which TAK says it broke with 18 months ago, took up arms in 1984 with the aim of creating a homeland in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

More than 30,000 people have since been killed in the separatist conflict.

The attacks came as Turkey, a NATO member which wants to join the European Union, sharply boosted its troop presence in the southeast and warned it would take a tougher line against separatist rebels.

Security has been stepped up, and although no major cancellations have been reported some tourists and those in the sector, worth $18 billion a year, have expressed concerned.

"I think at the worst it could affect tourism for two weeks. But luckily it came at the end of the season," said restaurant worker Turgay Yildirim, 37.

Local media have largely ignored the attacks and Turkish financial markets were unfazed by the bombings.

Eleven people were still being treated in hospital for their injuries, said police spokesman Akif Aktug. None of them were in a critical condition.

US envoy named

Police have launched a hunt for two people suspected of planting the bomb in Antalya, Milliyet newspaper said on Tuesday, although police did not confirm the report.

Police detained a PKK suspect in the port city of Izmir on Monday. TV footage showed him being led away by police and plastic explosives found in his possession. He was believed to have been planning an attack.

TAK has claimed a series of deadly attacks over the last year in tourist resorts and cities across the country. PKK guerrillas mainly carry out attacks against soldiers in the mountains of southeast Turkey from their bases in northern Iraq.

Turkey has repeatedly called on the United States and Iraq to clamp down on the PKK inside Iraq.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by the U.S., EU and Turkey.

On Tuesday, the US State Department announced the appointment of a former NATO commander as special envoy to help Turkey and Iraq fight Kurdish rebels along their border and in northern Iraq.

The appointment of retired Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, underscored US commitment to working with Turkey and Iraq to end "terrorism in all its forms", said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

The Firat News Agency, which has close ties to Kurdish rebels, said the PKK had condemned the bombings.

Turkey has improved rights for Kurds, but the EU wants more.


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