May 24, 1993 PKK ambush

May 24, 1993 PKK ambush
Part of Kurdish–Turkish conflict

Locations of Elazığ and Bingöl Turkey
DateMay 24, 1993
LocationElazığ-Bingöl highway
Result Ambush successful; end of first cease-fire
 Turkey Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)
Commanders and leaders
Şemdin Sakık
55 unarmed recruits[1][2] 150 militants[3]
Casualties and losses
33 recruits and 5 civilians killed[1]
22 recruits captured[2]

The May 24, 1993 PKK was allegedly PKK ambush on Turkish soldiers was carried out against unarmed Turkish military recruits on the Elazığ-Bingöl highway, killing 33 off-duty Turkish soldiers and 5 civilians and breaking the first ever Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) cease-fire with the Turkish government.[1][4] Turkish authorities claimed that according to Abdullah Öcalan's testimony in 1999, it was carried out by a regional PKK commander.;[5] and the Turkish military was informed of the attack but didn't take precaution, according to Şemdin Sakık, a high-ranking PKK official.[6]

Despite many Turkish authority claims, the PKK has never taken responsibility. Turkey has been condemned several times by the European Court of Human Rights for executing civilians and blaming the PKK.[7]


Attack place

In late 1991, Turkish President Turgut Özal attempted to establish dialogue with the PKK. He had said the idea of a federation could be discussed and a Kurdish language TV channel could be opened.[8] He also passed a bill, partially unbanning the use of the Kurdish language.[9] In response the PKK declared a cease-fire on March 20, 1993.

The attack

Turkish authorities claimed that PKK commander Sakik had responded to the previous state's decision with a show of force and ordered PKK units in Diyarbakır to close down all main highways in the province and nearby on May 24. One of these roads was the Elazığ-Bingöl highway[10] which was allegedly attacked by over 150 PKK militants,[3] coming from the South-Eastern mountains.[1] The fighters were ordered to kill any state employees they found.[10] The Turkish state media claimed that the PKK had stopped several buses that were transferring unarmed Turkish soldiers in civilian clothing and then dragged[3] 33 soldiers and 5 civilians[1] (including four teachers)[10] from their vehicles and executed them.[3] Some 22 soldiers were briefly captured by the PKK, before being freed by Turkish rescue operations.[2] The military was criticized for the fact that the soldiers were unarmed and there were no units protecting them.[8]

The PKK didn't however take responsibility.


The attack broke the PKK's cease-fire with the Turkish government[8] and in response to this, the Turkish military intensified its anti-insurgency operations against the PKK during the following months.[1] A total of 92 Turkish security forces, 203 Kurdish rebels and 29 civilians were killed during anti-insurgency operations in May and June, an additional 120 Kurds were arrested during these operations.[2]

Turkish claimed that Kucuk Zeki, the PKK's commander in Muş at the time, described the attack as a turning point in the conflict, as the state stepped up its operations against the PKK and "the war got much worse".[10]


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