Kurdish War: Secrets Within Secrets


December 11, 2012: Turkey’s minister of European Union affairs challenged members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) to condemn the terrorism of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The government minister made the argument that if the BDP’s members of parliament wish to be taken as serious political leaders in a democracy they must condemn the PKK’s terrorist acts. The challenge by Turkey’s EU minster follows a series of government statements that it may seek to end the immunity from prosecution parliamentary members enjoy if they do not renounce terrorism. Members of parliament are subject to investigation during their terms but they are immune from criminal prosecution unless the parliament votes to end an individual’s immunity.

December 10, 2012: Vitol, a Dutch multi-national energy corporation, has apologized to the Iraqi government for buying Iraqi Kurd oil without the Iraqi national government’s permission. The oil was shipped to export markets via a pipeline running through Turkey. Meanwhile a major Turkish oil firm said that it would continue to operate in Iraqi Kurdistan even if relations between Iraqi Kurds and the national government in Baghdad continued to deteriorate. Why? Turkey has promised Iraqi Kurds investment capital and political support if the Iraqi Kurds oppose the PKK.

December 5, 2012: In Turkey’s Osmaniye province Turkish Army helicopter gunships killed 13 PKK fighters in an attack on a PKK camp in the Amanos Mountains (southern Turkey, just north of the Syria-Turkey border).  Five PKK fighters were also captured in the operation. The Amanos Mountains are not a typical PKK operational area – typically the PKK sends units into southeastern Turkey.

December 3, 2012: Turkey continues to urge fellow NATO members to take action against PKK agents operating in their countries. Today 150 Dutch police raided a clandestine PKK meeting in the village of Ellemeet and detained 55 suspects for questioning.  In particular, Turkey wants western European countries to crack down on PKK fundraising operations.

December 1, 2012: Turkish media are reporting that Turkish defense officials have indicated there will be more special forces operations similar to the one conducted from October 30 to November 7. One conclusion drawn from the semi-official scuttlebutt is that instead of allowing the PKK to hide-out during the winter, the Turkish military may mount several large operations using highly mobile special forces units. (Austin Bay)

November 26, 2012: Turkish Army special operations forces have killed another senior PKK field commander (along with five other PKK men) in an operation conducted in Diyarbakir province (southeastern Turkey).

November 25, 2012: Turkish security forces killed eight PKK fighters in an operation in Bingol province (southeastern Turkey).  Four of the PKK fighters killed were women.  Turkish forces responded to a tip that a PKK group had been spotted near the town of Genc. The security forces quickly launched an operation and cornered the rebels. The rebels were given a chance to surrender but they refused.  The Turks then attacked, supported by air strikes.

November 23, 2012:  The Turks believe that a majority of the PKK’s fighters are now in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains (northeastern corner of Iraq). Well, it is that time of year. The PKK usually returns to its base camps during the Winter.

November 21, 2012: Police detained 152 pro-PKK political militants (two thirds of them teenagers) in Diyarbakir province (southeastern Turkey).  Most (128) were soon released, while the rest were arrested. Six of the people arrested were armed PKK fighters captured with their weapons.  One of the six had just returned to Turkey from the Qandil Mountains area in Iraq where he had received training in assassination techniques and orchestrating violent attacks. Presumably his job was to turn political demonstrations into violent clashes between Kurds and Turkish police.

November 19, 2012: If it looks like quid pro quo, perhaps it is. It was recently revealed that talks have been held between Turkish and PKK officials and they could occur again.  This may have something to do with several hundred imprisoned Kurdish militants agreeing to end a hunger strike that had lasted 68 days. The hunger strike became a media sensation in Turkey.  The official statement looks like the Turkish government fulfilling its end of a bargain with the prisoners. Admitting that the government has talked with the PKK is not news. Everyone knows discussions occur. But this is still a political hot button. Last year Turkish media revealed that Turkish intelligence officers had met with PKK representatives in Norway. This revelation touched off a furor in all of the major political parties. The government’s official policy was that it does not talk to terrorists and the PKK is a terrorist organization.  Interestingly enough, several Turkish opposition politicians have said that they could support government talks with PKK senior commander Abdullah Ocalan but the talks must result in changes on the ground, meaning an end to armed rebellion and street violence.

November 18, 2012:  Five Turkish Army soldiers died in a firefight with PKK rebels along the Turkey-Iraq border.

Several hundred imprisoned PKK hunger strikers ended a 68-day long hunger strike.  The prisoners said that they were terminating the strike because the PKK’s senior commander, Abdullah Ocalan, had asked them to do so.  Ocalan’s brother issued a statement on November 17, that urged the strikers to stop their protest because the protest had achieved its goal. The hunger strikers had called on the government to improve Ocalan’s prison conditions.  The government said nothing about moving Ocalan or improving his physical conditions. If the real goal was media attention, then the strikers got that.  Media coverage was intense. The strike had begun to spread beyond the prisons.  A few prominent members of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party, had joined the hunger strike.  Prison doctors had told the government and media that a number of prisoners were in failing health and close to death. 

November 16, 2012: Turkish gendarmes (paramilitary police) stopped a PKK attack on a military observation post in Diyarbakir Province’s Lice district. The PKK fighters detonated a bomb hidden on a farm tractor then attacked the post with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. The gendarmes said they had received intelligence that an attack was coming, so they were prepared for it. The Turkish forces suffered no casualties.

November 14, 2012: Turkish special operations forces killed two PKK field commanders (Inan Kaymaz and Hasan Denktas).  Conducted in a rugged 1,000 square kilometer region that lies in both Hakkari and Sirnak provinces, the operation began on October 30 and ended on November 7. Seven commando battalions (drawn from three different commando brigades), one Gendarme Special Operations battalion, two Turkish Army Special Forces battalions, and two national police Special Operations teams participated in the operation. Village guard forces in the area also participated. The special operations units were supported by Air Force reconnaissance aircraft. What was curious about the November 12 statement was that only eight PKK fighters were killed in the operation.  Two PKK field commanders would be regarded as high value targets worth the effort. The Turkish military began re-configuring some of its special operations units earlier this year. One goal was to provide special operations forces with real-time or near real-time intelligence information from aerial recon aircraft (manned and presumably unmanned as well). This operation may have employed some of these reconfigured units and employed real-time intelligence capabilities.

November 13, 2012: Turkish security forces claimed that they killed 496 PKK militants between January 1, 2012 and October 31, 2012. Another 44 were arrested and 155 PKK fighters surrendered.

November 7, 2012:  Two Iraqi civilians were killed and three Iraqis wounded in a Turkish air strike in north Iraq (near the town of Rania). Meanwhile Turkish Army commandos crossed the Turkey-Iraq border in a two day operation from November 5 through November 6. The commandos attacked a PKK camp five kilometers inside Iraq after a Turkish Air Force airstrike on the target.

November 6, 2012: A secret witness in Turkey’s  Ergenekon conspiracy trial asked the court for permission to reveal his identity. The man turned out to be Semdin Sakik, who at one time was one of the PKK’s most wanted commanders. Sakik was also an aide to the PKK’s most senior commander, Abdullah Ocalan. Turkish special forces captured Sakik in an action in northern Iraq in 1998.  Sakik’s revelation immediately produced accusations by several defendants charged in the conspiracy that the government was using a known PKK terrorist as a witness against Turkish military officers who were defending Turkey against Sakik’s illegal organization.

November 4, 2012:  The Turkish government accused the PKK of setting off a car bomb in the town of Semdinli. The bomb’s target was a police armored car. Instead the bomb killed an 11 year old girl.

November 3, 2012: At least 650 Kurdish prisoners continued a hunger strike. The prisoners are protesting the detention of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and the poor condition of the prison in which Ocalan is being held.


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