As the Autumn season begins, fighting between Turkish security forces and PKK militants has intensified. Both sides want to take advantage of good weather to wage war before Winter begins and the snow and cold make operations more difficult. The Turkish government is also saying that it expects the PKK to launch a Fall terror offensive. In late August the PKK managed to carry out a series of attacks on military positions and government buildings in the town of Semdinli (Hakkari province, south-eastern Turkey, Turkey-Iran-Iraq border triangle region).The attacks were hit and run strikes. However, they occurred in a town where earlier this year the Turkish government, PKK media contacts, and captured PKK rebels had suggested that PKK fighters would attempt to seize key buildings and then claim the town had been liberated. From July 23 to August 11, the Turkish Army conducted an extensive offensive in and around Semdinli. The PKK had been setting up roadblocks in the area, with the intent of claiming that its fighters were protecting an autonomous political zone.
September 10, 2012: The Turkish Air Force reported that air strikes conducted from September 5 to September killed 25 PKK rebels. The strikes hit a total of 14 PKK positions in northern Iraq. The targets included ammunition stocks, anti-aircraft positions, and shelter areas. Meanwhile, the Turky revealed that 373 PKK rebels have been killed in 974 military and police operations since April 2012. The vast majority of these operations took place in four south-eastern Turkish provinces, Sirnak, Tunceli, Siirt, and Hakkari. Since December 2011, 88 Turkish soldiers have died in counter-PKK operations.
Two Turkish soldiers were killed and seven were wounded in a series of firefights between the Turkish Army and the PKK. The firefights occurred in and around the village of Baglar (Hakkari province, not far from Semdinli).
September 9, 2012: Turkey said that its security forces will continue to fight the PKK terrorist organization as long as the PKK refuses to stop attacking Turkish targets. The government statement added that the PKK has to choose between violent attacks and joining Turkey’s democratic political process. The statement used a very descriptive comparison. The PKK will have to choose between the Qandil Mountains (its primary base area in north-eastern Iraq) and the Turkish Parliament (ie, entering politics and electing representatives).
September 7, 2012: Turkey reported that it had killed 26 PKK rebels in an on-going offensive operation that began in Sirnak province (southeastern Turkey) on September 6. Some 2,000 soldiers are involved in the operation, which was centered on the Mount Kato area. The ground troops were supported by Cobra attack helicopters and F-16 fighter-bomber strikes on PKK targets in Turkey and northern Iraq.
September 6, 2012: The Turks confirmed that a new operation against PKK rebels has begun along the Turkey-Iraq border. Helicopter gunships involved in the operation have attacked PKK targets in the Mount Kato area of Sirnak province (near the town of Beytussebap).
September 3, 2012: PKK rebels kidnapped Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) senior representative in Hakkari province. A member of the Republican Peoples Party (CHP) was kidnapped in August then released.
Turkish television showed video taken by counter-intelligence officers while tracking a group of seven alleged Iranian spies. The suspects were arrested August 31. The Iranian operatives are accused of photographing the Igdir Province Gendarme Command building. Igdir province is in far eastern Turkey and borders on Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. At least two of the suspects had also taken photographs of what Turkish investigators called other important security areas in Igdir province, to include military installations. Turkish counter-intelligence sources also claimed that the suspects claimed they had attempted to bribe government officials in Van province. The suspects were paid for the information they provided by Iran’s intelligence agency, SAVAMA. Television channels ran a photo taken at the Iran-Turkey border that government sources claimed showed a suspected Iranian agent passing information to a known SAVAMA agent. The information given to the Iranian agent allegedly concerned PKK operations.
September 2, 2012: Turkey reported that PKK rebels attacked several police stations and military assets in the town of Beytussebap (Sirnak province, south-eastern Turkey), killing ten soldiers and policemen and wounding seven. About 20 PKK rebels were killed in a series of firefights that occurred in the wake of the attacks.
September 1, 2012: Turkish media claimed that Turkey’s intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), believes that since March 2012, Iran has sent 100 new intelligence operatives into Turkey. In late August Turkish security services arrested nine suspected Iranian spies. Some of the agents are assigned to the Iranian embassy and are operating under diplomatic cover. Others, however, are posing as reporters. Allegedly the agents have been assigned to contact PKK militants. These latest reports were sparked by a news leak (likely from the government) that a Turkish court in the city of Erzurum (Erzurum province, northeastern Turkey) had charged seven people with aiding Iran’s intelligence services. The case had been kept quiet for almost a year. The seven suspects were arrested in Igdir province on August 31. One Turkish newspaper called described the seven suspects as a spy ring. The leaked report indicated that Turkish counter-intelligence officers had been following the group for a year. Since Spring 2012, several articles have appeared in the Turkish press with similar reports of an influx of Iranian intelligence agents into Turkey.
August 31, 2012: PKK rebels launched two bomb attacks in Van province (south-eastern Turkey). Rebels detonated a remote-controlled bomb on the rail line between the villages of Kecikayasi and Caybagi and derailed a freight train. As a military detachment arrived to help secure the de-railed train, the rebels detonated another remote-controlled bomb which wounded six Turkish soldiers.
Turkish media reported that some villages in north-eastern Syria (predominantly Kurdish area) are flying Kurdish nationalist flags. The Syrian Army has withdrawn from these villages and at the moment local security is being provided by local militias. Turkey has said that it would intervene in Syrian Kurdish territory if its intelligence agencies determine that the PKK is operating in the area. Turkey regards the Syrian Democratic Unity (PYD, also called the Party of Unity and Democracy) as being a front for the PKK. The PYD, of course, denies the allegation. The PYD is, however, the militant Kurdish party in Syria. The Syrian Kurdish National Council (KNC) brings together Syrian Kurds who oppose the PKK. According to the reports the militia in the Syrian towns of Kobani, Derik, and Efrin are PYD-supported forces. Turkish government officials have told media that they suspect the Assad government wants the PYD militias to block any efforts by Syrians in Turkey to supply Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels inside Syria.
August 30, 2012: A senior AKP party official stated the government has evidence that security forces loyal to Syria’s Assad regime intentionally left stocks of heavy weapons for use by the PKK when the pro-Assad forces evacuated Kurdish areas in north-eastern Syria.
On Monday firefighters raced to the scene of an explosion in the southeastern Turkish town of Gaziantep to extinguish flames from a car bomb believed to have been planted by Kurdish separatists. The bomb exploded close to a police station, killing at least seven people and wounding dozens more.
August 25, 2012: French police have arrested five PKK militants on August 24, and today. The arrests were part of two covert operations targeting PKK operatives in France. Allegedly, at least four of the people arrested were involved in a plan to murder a Kurdish resident of southern France who had refused to contribute to the PKK. The French government has charged them with attempted murder and terrorism. Turkey has claimed that PKK operatives attempt to extort money from ethnic Kurds living in Western Europe under the guise of collecting revolutionary taxes.
August 23, 2012: Turkish Army soldiers killed five PKK fighters in a series of clashes in Hakkari province. The army said that it is pursuing PKK rebels who launched attacks on two government installations in the town of Semdinli. One Turkish soldier died in the attacks. The army also reported that it had killed another 16 rebels in operations following a PKK bomb attack on a military convoy in Semdinli on August 22. Five soldiers died in the bomb attack and seven were wounded.
August 22, 2012: Turkish police have arrested the vice-principal of a school in Sanliurfa province (southeastern Turkey) on suspicion of being involved in the August 20th terror car bombing in Gaziantep. Nine people, including four children, died in the car bomb attack and 68 others were wounded. Police said the suspect is accused of helping plan the attack. He also helped position the car bomb after the vehicle broke down and its driver phone a PKK commander to find out what to do. The vice-principal tried to get the car repaired and, failing that, called a tow-truck. He then had the tow-truck driver tow the disabled car to a spot near a police station in the city of Gaziantep. That is where the vehicle was located when its bomb blew up. According to a Turkish media report, police investigators found the tow-truck driver who then gave the police the phone number of the vice-principal. The investigators claimed that the suspect works with the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). The Turkish government contends that the KCK is the urban political arm of the PKK.
The Turkish government said that its security services are investigating possible links between a foreign country and a PKK bomb attack that killed nine people in the town of Gaziantep on August 20. The likely suspect country is Iran. Police and government officials stated that Turkey had recently opened an international aid distribution center in Gaziantep to help Syrian refugees.
August 20, 2012: A car bomb exploded, killing nine people in the city of Gaziantep (Gaziantep province, south-central Turkey, near the Syrian border). Nine people died in the blast and local hospitals reported that at least 60 were injured. Police said they believed the bomb was remote-controlled. Turkish officials claimed that the bombing was a PKK terror strike. Gaziantep has a population of around 900,000 people and is a major commercial crossing point on the Turkey-Syria border.