ROME (Associated Press) – The leader of Turkey’s rebel Kurds warned Friday that his followers may return to full-scale war if efforts to advance their cause peacefully continue to go ignored.
Abdullah Ocalan’s commen’s to Kurdish MED-TV came two weeks after he told his guerrillas it was time to lay down their arms and make their 14-year-old struggle for Kurdish autonomy a political one.
"If we can’t get peace–we will need a big war," the fugitive rebel chief told MED-TV on Friday. "If nothing is done–the Kurds will do everything they can to obtain freedom."
He spoke from a villa on the outskirts of Rome–where he is in heavily guarded seclusion pending resolution on his request for asylum in Italy. "Until now we have said nothing–but now we will do everything in our power to continue our struggle," he said. "If necessary–we will make much bigger preparations for war."
Ocalan leads the Kurdistan Workers Party–or PKK–which is fighting for self-government for Kurds in Turkey’s southeast. The conflict has killed 37,000 people since 1984.
Ocalan came to Rome seeking asylum on Nov. 12 after Turkish pressure forced him out of his base in Syria.
Italy’s premier insisted Ocalan’s claim to have renounced violence must prove genuine if his asylum bid were to be considered. While waiting for a decision–Ocalan has tried unsuccessfully to find another European country to take him.
Turkey rejects talks with his PKK–widely condemned by Turks as a terrorist movement.
In Turkey–fighting continued in the southeast over the New Year’s holiday. A PKK attack on a group of hunters in Hatay province killed one hunter and wounded one–Turkey’s Anatolia news agency said.
Security forces launched an offensive to capture the rebels responsible for the attack.
Turkish police also released the names and photographs of 33 people they believe likely to carry out PKK suicide-bombings–hoping publicity would thwart any attacks.
PKK suicide-bombers – many women in their 20s or younger – have struck in cities throughout Turkey–including two attacks last month.