Source AP ©

Kurdish rebels threaten to increase attacks against Turkish troops

Kurdish rebels have threatened to escalate attacks against Turkish troops unless Turkey ends its military operations against the group.

Belgium-based Firat, a pro-Kurdish news agency that Turkey says is a rebel mouthpiece, quoted the rebel group as saying the Turkish military would "pay a high price" unless it stopped offensives against it.

The military should "immediately end operations, return its forces to the garrisons and not impede democratic solutions" to end the conflict, Firat quoted the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, as saying.

There has been a surge in PKK attacks against military targets in southeast Turkey in recent weeks.

Turkey is growing increasingly frustrated and has been building up its forces near the Iraqi border, raising fears it might stage a cross-border operation. It is also carrying out several offensives against rebels in the southeast of the country, moving troops to the area from garrisons in other parts of the country.

The U.S. has warned against a cross-border incursion, fearing it might drag northern Iraq, the country's relatively stable part, into chaos. The Turkish military shelled suspected rebel bases in Iraq's north this week.

The rebel group has been fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey since 1984, in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people. The United States and the European Union brand the PKK a terrorist organization.

In recent attacks, suspected Kurdish rebels detonated a roadside bomb in southeast Turkey late Saturday, killing a Turkish lieutenant colonel, a major and a private.

Earlier this week, a similar bomb claimed lives of four troops. In other attacks, rebels killed seven soldiers at a Turkish military outpost in southeast Turkey last week. On May 24, a bomb believed planted by the PKK killed eight soldiers.

On Sunday, a small bomb exploded on a busy street in Istanbul, injuring 14 people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Last month a suicide bomb attack in Ankara killed eight people and injured dozens of others. Turkish officials blamed the PKK for the attack, but the group denied involvement.