'Historic truce' as PKK leader calls for peace from Turkish jail
Abdullah Ocalan tells his Kurdish rebels to lay down their weapons and withdraw across the border to Iraq
THE JAILED leader of Kurdish rebels in Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan, has called on his followers to lay down their weapons after 29 years of fighting, in what has been hailed as an historic truce.
After several failed ceasefires down the years, observers believe it is the most convincing step towards peace between Turkish authorities and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) so far.
Ocalan has been in Turkish custody since he was captured in Kenya in 1999. In a statement read out in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyaarbakir, he said: "We have reached the point where weapons should be silent and ideas and politics should speak." He called on his "armed units" to withdraw from Turkey across the border into northern Iraq.
The PKK first took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, demanding a separate Kurdish state in southeast Turkey. They scaled that down in the 1990s to demanding greater autonomy for Kurds, alongside constitutional and linguistic rights.
In 29 years, the BBC reports, 40,000 people have died in the fighting - and the group is considered a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US as well as Turkey itself. These are some of the worst recent incidents in its long campaign:
15 November 2003: Thirty people were killed and 146 wounded when car bombs struck two synagogues in Istanbul. Turkish authorities named two suicide bombers, saying the attacks showed the influence of the al-Qaeda network.
27 August 2006: Ten Britons and six Turks were wounded when a minibus was blown up in the tourist town of Marmaris on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Five others were hurt by two other bombs. The next day, three died and 87 were injured in a huge blast in Antalya (pictured above).
18 October 2011: The PKK carried out one of its most devestating attacks on the Turkish military, killing 24 soldiers near the Iraqi border in two simultaneous ambushes. Turkey retaliated with air strikes. ·