Source AP ©

Six Kurdish rebels killed near border with Iraq

Six Kurdish rebels are killed near the border with Iraq on Tuesday in a clash that also killed a Turkish officer.

The rebels - four women and two men - were killed on Mount Gabar, in the province of Sirnak, the military said in a statement posted on its Web site. It said the clash erupted after the rebels defied calls for their surrender and opened fire on the soldiers.

The military said the rebels were among a group of guerrillas that killed 13 soldiers in an ambush in Sirnak on Oct. 7. At the time, the military retaliated by shelling areas near the border to prevent rebels from reaching bases in northern Iraq.

That attack, and another similar ambush a few weeks later that killed 12 soldiers, sparked anger in Turkey and widespread calls for the military to cross the border to hit bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq.

"Operations against the separatist terrorist organization will continue unabated and with determination," the military said.

Turkey has massed thousands of troops along its border with Iraq. On Saturday, the military said it fired on a group of about 50 to 60 PKK guerrillas inside Iraqi territory, inflicting "significant losses." It did not say whether Turkish troops had crossed into Iraq for the operation.

Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, in Paris to address a meeting of European lawmakers, said the military operation on Saturday against PKK rebels involved only air force strikes - not land forces.

The United States and Iraq have pressured Turkey to avoid a large-scale attack on rebel bases in northern Iraq, fearing such an operation would destabilize what has been the calmest region in the country.

In a Nov. 30 declaration, e-mailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, the PKK reiterated that it considered a cease-fire it declared a year ago to still be valid, and it called on the Turkish military to adhere to it.

Turkey has ignored a series of PKK cease-fire declarations, vowing to fight on until all fighters are killed or surrender. The rebel group has carried out a series of attacks recently, killing dozens of soldiers. Turkish authorities have labeled the cease-fire declarations a ploy by the PKK to win international recognition.

"If the Turkish state ceases its attacks on our forces, our leader, our people, our values and our democratic institutions then we can confidently say that the current violent atmosphere will vanish and a peaceful atmosphere will ensue," the group said in the e-mail. "This will mean the practical silence of the guns."

Meanwhile, Turkish prosecutors brought charges against two of Abdullah Ocalan's lawyers for claiming that the PKK leader was being poisoned in prison, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

The Istanbul chief prosecutor's office accused lawyers Irfan Dundar and Mahmut Sakar of "membership in an illegal organization" for claiming earlier this year that Turkish authorities were poisoning Ocalan in his prison cell, the agency said.

The allegations, made in March, sparked violent protests in Turkey.

Dundar and Sakar could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. No trial date has been set.

Ocalan, 59, is the sole inmate on the prison island of Imrali, in the Marmara Sea, off Istanbul.

Authorities carried out hair, urine and skin tests to calm his supporters and said Ocalan showed no signs he was being poisoned and called the allegations "complete lies."

The prosecutor's office said Dundar's and Sakar's allegations "were seen as a call for action by junior members of the organization" and sparked "actions and protests geared toward propaganda on behalf of the organization in Turkey and in the world," Anatolia reported.

Ocalan was initially sentenced to death after his capture in 1999, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison after Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2002.

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