Saturday, 09 August 2008, 11:21 EDT
Kurdish PKK rebels threaten more attacks after pipeline blast in Turkey
Kurdish PKK threatened more attacks on economic targets.
Turkey’s Kurdish PKK rebels threatened more attacks on economic targets Friday after claiming responsibility for a blast in eastern Turkey that shut down a strategic oil pipeline, an agency close to the rebels reported.

"Attacks on economic interests have a deterring effect (on Turkey)… As long as the Turkish state insists on war, such acts will be naturally carried out," Bahoz Erdal, a commander of the Turkey’s separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), told the Firat news agency.

The PKK claimed responsibility for a blast Tuesday night at a section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline near Refahiye, in Erzincan province.

The explosion sparked a fire, which continued to burn Friday, triggering fresh jitters at the world oil markets.

The conduit, which supplies oil to Western markets, is expected to remain shut for about 15 days.

The PKK said the explosion was "an act of sabotage" by its militants, details of which would be revealed later, according to Firat.

Erdal said the pipeline blast and other PKK attacks in recent weeks were in response to an intensified Turkish crackdown against the rebels both inside Turkey and neighbouring northern Iraq, where they take refuge.

Turkish military action "has required us to boost our resistance in self-defence," he told Firat.

The Turkish authorities have played down the possibility of a sabotage at the BTC pipeline, and the Anatolia news agency Friday quoted unnamed officials as saying that the PKK might be seeking publicity.

An official from Turkey’s state-run oil and gas company, BOTAS, said Thursday that no trace of a sabotage had been found but a definite conclusion could be reached only after the fire at the pipeline was extinguished.

The Refahiye’s sub-governor had earlier ruled out sabotage, saying a fault had been detected before the blast.

Inaugurated in 2006, the 1,774-kilometre (1,109-mile) BTC pipeline is the world’s second longest.

It carries Azeri oil from the Caspian Sea fields, the world’s third largest reserve, to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, from where tankers transport the crude to Western markets.

It was pumping about 1.2 million barrels of oil per day before the blast.

Analysts suggested the shutdown could last longer than Turkish officials estimate and British energy giant BP said it was looking at alternative means of delivering supplies to Western clients.

Over 39,000 Turkish soldiers and Kurdish PKK guerrillas have been killed since 1984 when the Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) took up arms for self-rule in the country’s mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey (Turkey-Kurdistan). A large Turkey’s Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

The PKK demands Turkey’s recognition of the Kurds’ identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country’s Kurdish areas, the party also demanded an end to ethnic discrimination in Turkish laws and constitution against Kurds, granting them full political freedoms.

The PKK is considered a ‘terrorist’ organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union’s terror list.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

On Wednesday night, the rebels fired rockets at a police station in the eastern town of Malazgirt, killing a Turkish policeman and wounding three others.