May 24, 1993 PKK ambush

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May 24, 1993 PKK ambush
Part of Kurdish–Turkish conflict
Elazığ - Bingöl Turkey Provinces locator.png
Locations of Elazığ and Bingöl Turkey
Date May 24, 1993
Location Elazığ-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 ambush was a PKK ambush on Turkish soldiers that was carried out against unarmed Turkish military recruits on the Elazığ-Bingöl highway, executing 33 off-duty Turkish soldiers and 5 civilians, thus 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][unreliable source?].

Despite many Turkish authority claims, the PKK has never taken responsibility.[6]


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.[7] He also passed a bill, partially unbanning the use of the Kurdish language;[8] in response the PKK declared a cease-fire on March 20, 1993. On April 17, 1993 Turgut Özal died under suspicious circumstances which stalled the dialogue.

The attack[edit]

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[9] which was allegedly attacked by over 150 PKK militants,[3] coming from the South-Eastern mountains.[1] PKK followed orders and 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)[9] 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.[7]


The attack broke the PKK's cease-fire with the Turkish government[7] 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".[9]