(Reuters) - Turkey’s parliament was due to meet later on Wednesday to authorize cross-border operations to hunt down PKK rebels hiding in mountainous northern Iraq.
Following are facts on the rebels:
-- Abdullah Ocalan founded the party in 1974 and it was formally named the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in 1978, a Marxist-Leninist insurgent group fighting for an independent Kurdish state.
-- It earned a reputation for ruthlessness by killing members of rival groups, Kurdish “aga” landlords and pro-government tribesmen.
-- The PKK took up arms against Turkey in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic homeland in the southeast. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict since then.
-- Ocalan was captured and sentenced to death by a Turkish court in 1999, but the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment in October 2002 after Turkey abolished the death penalty.
-- Fighting dwindled after Ocalan’s capture and it also led to a ceasefire and the withdrawal of rebel fighters from Turkey.
-- Ocalan, after his capture, emphasized the importance of winning rights for the Kurds through political rather than armed struggle. That encouraged the rebels to establish a new political wing known as KONGRA-GEL in November 2003.
-- In June 2004, the PKK announced the end of its ceasefire and told investors and tourists to stay away from Turkey.
-- In April 2006 authorities blamed the PKK for rioting between pro-Kurdish protesters and security forces in Turkey’s southeast in the worst civil unrest since the mid 1990s.
-- Clashes have resumed in recent years and last week Kurdish rebels shot dead 13 Turkish soldiers in the worst such incident in years.
-- Some 3,000 PKK fighters are based in northern Iraq and launch attacks on security and civilian targets in Turkish territory. A few thousand PKK rebels are also believed to be inside Turkey.
Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; editing by Robert Woodward; RM email@example.com, +44 20 7542 7968, fax +44 20 7542 8648