Military Wiki
May 24, 1993 PKK ambush
Part of Kurdish–Turkish conflict
Elazığ - Bingöl Turkey Provinces locator.png
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[1][2] 150[3]
Casualties and losses

33 killed[1]

22 captured[2]
5 civilians killed[1]

The May 24, 1993 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] The attack had been ordered by Şemdin Sakık[5] and according to Abdullah Öcalan's testimony in 1999, it was carried out by a regional PKK commander.[6]


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. However, after Turgut Özal's death on April 17, 1993, the government's pace in meeting the PKK's political demands were largely halted[7][9] and on May 19, when about a dozen rebels operating Şemdin Sakık were killed in an attack by the military in the town of Kulp, he sent a letter to Abdullah Öcalan claiming that the rebels were losing respect due to the cease-fire. Öcalan responded by saying that they were allowed to defend themselves.[10]

The attack

Sakık decided to respond 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 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 PKK 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.[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] 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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