Kurd rebels vow to turn Turkey 'into hell'

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A Kurdish rebel group that claimed responsibility for a string of attacks on Turkish holiday resorts in which three people died and 10 Britons were injured, vowed yesterday to turn Turkey "into hell" as part of their separatist campaign.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) said on its website that it had carried out the attack on the seaside town of Antalya on Monday, the deadliest of a series of blasts that rocked the country over the weekend. Three people were killed and dozens injured when a bomb ripped through a crowded shopping centre in the centre of the resort, tearing façades off buildings in one of Turkey's most popular holiday destinations.

Threatening to damage the country's burgeoning tourist industry, TAK, which has already claimed responsibility for the weekend's other attacks, warned yesterday that "the fear of death will reign everywhere in Turkey" in the aftermath of the co-ordinated blasts.

On Sunday, in Istanbul six were hurt by an explosion in the suburb of Bagcilar. Eight of the Britons injured at Antalya remained in hospital last night, two others having already been flown home.

"We have promised to turn... monstrous Turkey into hell with our warriors who have pledged revenge," the group, believed to be an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) said. "Our motto is: 'more actions, bigger blows'."

TAK has claimed to be behind several attacks on so-called "soft" targets in the past year, hitting the tourist industry which has boosted Turkey's economy and solidified its image as a country friendly to the West. Security analysts say the group is made up of dissatisfied former members of the PKK, the banned guerilla group that waged a bloody armed struggle for a Kurdish homeland during the 1980s and 1990s.

As security was stepped up at all major tourist destinations on the coast yesterday, Turkish police said they had launched a hunt for two people suspected of planting the bomb in Antalya. Milliyet newspaper reported that sketches of two men seen fleeing the scene had been circulated, while one suspected PKK member remained in custody after explosives were found in his possession during a raid on Monday.

The man, who was allegedly plotting a fourth major attack on the Aegean port of Izmir, is believed to have entered Turkey from northern Iraq.

An upsurge in attacks in the overwhelmingly Kurdish south-east of Turkey has sparked fears of a return to the violence that gripped the country after the formation of the PKK in 1978, in which more than 300,000 people died. The PKK has come under pressure recently from Ankara, Washington and Brussels to end operations in northern Iraq. But the Kurds demand immunity for their fighters, a condition which Prime Minister Erdogan's government refuses to meet. The flow of PKK guerrillas over the Iraqi border has strained Turkey's relations with the US and Iraq, both of whom it accuses of not doing enough to crack down on the threat. Turkey has warned it has the right under international law to conduct incursions into Iraq if the attacks continue. The US, with more than 130,000 troops mired in conflict in Iraq, fears that such a move would complicate the volatile situation.

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