The Turkish military denied on Thursday it was using chemical weapons in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and said it did not even possess such arms.
“There have been no chemical weapons or ammunition registered in the inventory of the Turkish Armed Forces,” said the General Staff, which presides over the armed forces, according to the Anatolia news agency.
“The fight against the separatist terrorist organisation continues in compliance with national and universal rules of law,” it added.
The military was responding to claims published in some media at home and abroad that the army was using chemical weapons in its operations against PKK militants.
The claims are “baseless, biased and aimed at slandering the Turkish armed forces,” the General Staff said.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
One terrorist was killed and 10 others surrendered to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) on Wednesday in the military’s ongoing fighting against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the provinces of Şırnak and Bingöl.
A written statement from the Şırnak Governor’s Office on Wednesday stated that Turkish intelligence was informed that a group of PKK terrorists were inside a seven-story-high cave in the Cudi Mountain in the southeastern province of Şırnak, bordering Iraq. A unit of TSK commandos went to the area by helicopter and a land unit surrounded the cave on the ground. Terrorists surrendered to the commandos when all other options were exhausted.
The statement also mentions that three other people who are reported to be PKK sympathizers were captured with the terrorists. They allegedly helped the terrorist organization launch attacks against public buildings, civilians and security forces in cities.
While searching the cave, security units found seven Kalashnikov rifles, two binoculars, ammunition, one rocket launcher, a laptop, a power generator, an LCD TV, a radiophone, a DVD player, PKK administrative documents and a large amount of food.
The terrorists who surrendered stated that there are many PKK terrorists who also want to surrender but cannot find the opportunity. They also stated that many of the PKK groups in the mountainous regions of Turkey find it hard to survive, as they are facing a lack of food and — critically, in these bad weather conditions — shelter.
Furthermore, one PKK terrorist was killed and seven others surrendered to gendarmes in a clash in the district of Karlıova of Bingöl province on Wednesday. Security units are continuing their operations against the terrorist PKK in Bingöl.
The conflict with the PKK has claimed tens of thousands of lives and cost Turkey hundreds of billions of dollars. The group is labeled a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, which has supplied Predator drones to Turkey to assist in its fight in the rugged Southeast.
Court sends captured senior PKK terrorist to prison
Suphi Yalçınkaya, a high-level member of the terrorist PKK who was captured by police in İstanbul on Sunday, was sent to prison after being interrogated at İstanbul’s Beşiktaş Courthouse on Wednesday.
The terrorist was captured over the weekend in a police operation carried out in İstanbul’s Esenyurt district. He is known to be the right-hand man of Fehman Hüseyin of Syria, who goes by the codename Bahoz Erdal.
08 December 2011, Thursday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL
Copenhagen prosecutors overseeing an investigation into Kurdish-language television station Roj TV have said the TV station is the voice of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and have requested a Danish court ban the channel from broadcasting.
Prosecutors Anders Risager and Jakob Buch-Jepsen announced their final opinion during the 28th hearing of the trial on Wednesday. They submitted evidence of orders from PKK executives to Roj TV and photographs of Roj TV employees taken in the PKK’s bases in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq. Buch-Jepsen said during the hearing that the evidence they put forward clearly proves that Roj TV is completely under the control of the PKK, both administratively and economically.
The PKK is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the European Union. Its members are fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984. Roj TV has a Danish broadcasting license, but has no studios in Denmark.
Stating that the channel said it would be based and managed in Copenhagen when its founders applied for a license from Danish authorities, Buch-Jepsen said the channel is being run from the Brussels-based pro-PKK news agency Roj NV and all broadcasts of Roj TV are being provided by Roj NV. The prosecutor added that Roj TV is the successor of Med TV and Medya TV, which were earlier banned in Germany, France and the UK, noting that it is enough to follow the programming of Roj TV to see that it is the successor of these channels.
After countless complaints and petitions from the Turkish government over a number of years, in August 2010 Denmark’s public prosecution filed a court case against Roj TV, charging it with helping to promote the PKK. When filing the case, top Danish prosecutor Jorgen Steen Sorensen said Roj TV was promoting the activities of the PKK.
Turkey’s minister for European Union affairs, Egemen Bağış, who was in Copenhagen for an official visit, commented on the Danish prosecutors’ opinion in the Roj TV case on Wednesday, saying he does not want to even think about the possibility of a ruling against the closure of Roj TV. “I want to hope that the Danish judiciary will make the correct decision on this issue, which clearly shows that Roj TV has become the mouthpiece of the PKK,” he told reporters.
“Let’s wait for the ruling,” he added. Bağış said the single issue that negatively affects Turkish-Danish relations is Roj TV. The TV station has long been a cause of tension between Denmark and Turkey. Ankara believes it is broadcasting propaganda for the PKK and has called for the station to be closed, but in the past Denmark has refused to do so, citing freedom of the press.
08 December 2011, Thursday / EMRE OĞUZ, COPENHAGEN
According to Turkish intelligence officials, the Turkish government has started implementing a new strategy according to which some 300 important Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists have been put on a death list.
Experts believe this new strategy is being carried out to destroy the claim of top PKK members, in which they say that the Turkish government has killed at least one person from every single family in Turkey’s Southeast.
It can be said that Turkey has adopted this new counterterrorism strategy under current Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, who assumed the post from the previous interior minister, Beşir Atalay. Within the scope of this strategy, Turkey simply put the political sides of the PKK issue aside and instead carries out heavier attacks on the terrorist organization while targeting its top 300 members.
Ankara’s new strategy started after the terrorist PKK killed 13 Turkish soldiers, while its so-called cease-fire was still in place.
Turkey’s answered the PKK attacks more heavily when several terrorist groups carried out simultaneous attacks against the gendarmerie and police in which 24 Turkish security personnel were killed, and 18 others were wounded in October. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) attacked PKK militia bases in the mountainous regions of Hakkari and Şırnak provinces.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman, government officials state that the reason behind Turkey adopting a strategy to kill the foremost PKK members is because young PKK terrorists who are mainly in the front line of the clashes with the army are getting killed and PKK leaders use these deaths as propaganda, stating that the government has killed at least one person from every single house in provinces that are predominantly Kurdish. Kurdish youth being killed in operations is strengthening hatred towards Turkey; therefore, the government now targets top PKK members.
Minister Şahin stated in October that National Police Department special ops teams will take part in counterterrorism operations carried out in rural areas. Intelligence officials told Today’s Zaman that the police and the gendarmerie now act together in counterterrorism operations; previously, there was no coordination between these organizations whatsoever.
Difference between Atalay and Şahin
In the past 30 years of counterterrorism operations against the PKK, governments have always taken measures and actions with the will of the TSK only, and this policy caused various ministers to introduce different tactics against the PKK.
Atalay was in charge in 2009, and later the government tried to solve the Kurdish problem politically. The government took the risk of losing its credibility and started negotiations with the terrorist PKK. Within the scope of this strategy, Atalay has always looked for political solutions to the PKK issue.
Turkish intelligence officials state that the current interior minister, Şahin, believes that political reforms can’t solve the Kurdish issue without reducing PKK attacks against security forces and civilians. The terrorist organization seems to have psychological superiority in the mountainous regions, which Şahin is currently trying to end in order to stop the terrorist organization’s propaganda, which states that Turkey adopts reforms only because the PKK puts pressure on the government with its terrorist attacks.
Iraqi Kurdish leader has said his regional administration has been in talks with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to stop their assaults against Turkey and will exercise the maximum pressure on the terrorist organization.
“We are in contact (with the PKK) and will exercise the maximum pressure on the PKK to stop their military operations because this is playing with the fate of the Kurdish people,” said Massoud Barzani, himself a former militant leader.
Attacks by the PKK members on Turkish military have prompted Ankara to launch airstrikes on the Iraqi border mountains since August this year.
“Now is not the time for military operations, one can fight for a cause in peaceful and democratic ways, this is the solution,” Barzani told Reuters in an interview.
His region is facing shelling and air strikes by troops in neighboring Iran and Turkey who are trying to strike camps run by the PKK and its Iranian offshoot PJAK. Both use the Iraqi border mountains as a refuge from Turkish and Iranian military.
Shelling and air strikes have forced some Kurdish villagers from their homes along the border.
Barzani said his government could consider sending local Kurdish Peshmerga forces to the region’s borders with Iran if the situation deteriorated further.
Future status of Kirkuk
Speaking about the US withdrawal and the future status of Kirkuk, Barzani said the US withdrawal from Iraq next month will not impact security in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, but Baghdad’s delay deciding the fate of the disputed city of Kirkuk could prove “dangerous.”
He said he is ready to work with the central government to avoid a deterioration in security as Washington pulls out its remaining 13,000 troops by the end of December.
“The US withdrawal will not have any impact on the security situation in the Kurdistan region, because there have been no American forces in the region. As for the rest of Iraq’s security, there is a worry,” he said.
“We are ready to cooperate with Baghdad so as not to allow any security breach or void,” he said.
Baghdad and northern Iraqi capital Arbil have a long-running dispute over territory and oil rights along their internal border, especially over who controls Kirkuk city, which sits atop some of the world’s largest oil reserves.
A census to determine whether the city has a Kurdish or Arab majority that would back up either claim has been repeatedly delayed. The tussle over the disputed territories is seen as a potential flashpoint as US troops withdraw.
Barzani said his administration will continue demanding a vote on the fate of Kirkuk — claimed by the Kurds as their ancestral homeland — without any concessions.
“We have exercised the maximum levels of flexibility on this issue and when we approved article 140, we had no doubt on the identity of these areas, they are Kurdish areas,” Barzani said.
Article 140 in the Iraqi constitution calls for a resolution of dispute areas through different stages including voting in a referendum. The census would be a key initial step toward a vote on resolving the territorial dispute.
“The future of Kirkuk is linked to the execution of article 140, if this article was executed then the issue of Kirkuk would be solved and the people of Kirkuk are the ones who will decide their fate,” he said. “If there are delays or (attempts) to avoid the Iraqi constitution, then the future will be really very dangerous.”
Iraq territories disputed by Kurds and the Arab-led government in Baghdad, include Kirkuk and areas in the troubled northern Nineveh province.
Asked if he was willing to offer concessions to Baghdad by giving away Kirkuk to solve a long-standing row over oil revenue and contracts, Barzani said: “No way. This is an identity issue, an issue of honor, an issue of dignity, how could we? The issue of oil and gas is another subject, you can never link them.”
30 November 2011, Wednesday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH REUTERS,
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was “convinced” by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani regarding a solution to the bloody conflict, according to a TV report. Talabani also said the PKK had proposed two conditions to lay down arms.
“They told me they want a general amnesty for PKK members and that the new constitution should state that Turkey consists of not only Turks but also other people,” Talabani told the Iraqiya TV channel, according to private broadcaster CNNTürk.
Talabani said he was successful in convincing the PKK on a solution and “half-successful” in convincing the Turkish side.
Speaking in Moscow, a top Turkish official said the PKK must not use any potential cease-fire as an opportunity to prepare for new battles but should instead abandon its armed struggle. The era marked by the policies of denial and assimilation are now over in Turkey, Ömer Çelik, the deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), told reporters in Moscow.
“No rights can be won by armed struggle, the PKK should lay down arms,” Çelik said, Anatolia news agency reported.
Çelik’s comments followed a similar call by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Speaking to semi-official Iraqiya television, Talabani said the PKK had proposed two conditions to lay down its arms.
“They told me they want a general amnesty for PKK members and that the new constitution should state that Turkey consists of not only Turks but also other people,” Talabani said, according to private broadcaster CNNTürk.
Talabani said he was successful in convincing the PKK on a solution and “half-successful” in convincing the Turkish side.
Meanwhile, 28 people were detained in a recent Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) operation in the Cizre and Silopi districts of the southeastern province of Şırnak yesterday.
The detainees include Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) officials as well as provincial council members.
The KCK is the alleged urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
On Saturday, 70 people who were detained last week in Istanbul and the southeastern province of Diyarbakır were arrested for alleged links to a terrorist organization.
Lawyers make up 42 of the suspects because of their connections to Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, who allegedly relayed his directives to the KCK through the lawyers from the İmralı Island Prison where he is serving a life sentence.
Öcalan could be questioned as part of the probe, especially to shed light on the alleged links between KCK and PKK, reports said.
Çelik, meanwhile, defended the controversial recent operations against the KCK.
“The judiciary will have the final decision, but no one can call it a civil society group when an organization that names itself the KCK throws Molotov cocktails in city centers and terrorizes people,” said the deputy AKP leader, adding that every state has the right to protect its citizens.
Forty-six suspects who were detained Nov. 22 in 16 different provinces across Turkey as part of the ongoing Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) probe were transferred to a courthouse in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district Nov. 25.
Another 43 suspects detained in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır as part of the KCK probe were also transferred to court there on the same day.
Eleven more people, including Abdullah Akikol, the provincial head of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in the southeastern province of Mardin, were further detained Nov. 25 by police and sent to the court in Diyarbakır as well.
The suspects in Istanbul, including former Democracy Party (DEP) deputy Mahmut Alınak, were taken to the Forensics Institute at around 5 a.m., after which they were taken to court by in a riot police vehicle, according to reports.
The 43 suspects detained in Diyarbakır also include deputy district mayors, members of the provincial assembly, BDP administrators and members of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), a legal umbrella organization of pro-Kurdish groups.
Some 42 of the 46 suspects are lawyers detained in connection with claims concerning Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who allegedly relayed his directives to the KCK through his lawyers from the İmralı Island Prison, where he is serving a life sentence.
Öcalan could be questioned as part of the probe, especially to shed light on the alleged links between the KCK and the PKK, according to reports.
The KCK is an armed and illegally organized body that makes its own independent decisions and which must not become involved with the DTK, Öcalan allegedly said, according to notes seized from his lawyers.
The BDP is primarily focused on the Kurdish issue.
The KCK is the alleged urban wing of the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) killed three people in an attack on an oil field in southeast Turkey overnight, security officials said today.
PKK militants shot dead two security personnel and an electrician as they got out of their vehicle at the Selmo oil field at Kozluk in Batman province yesterday night, the officials said.
The Canadian firm Transatlantic Petroleum Ltd. operates the Selmo field and describes it as the second largest in Turkey. Transatlantic said in a statement it was working with local authorities to investigate the incident.
An air-backed operation was launched at dawn in pursuit of the PKK members, security officials said.
Batman Governor Ahmet Turhan said operations at the oil field were continuing.
More than 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK took up arms against the state in 1984.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by the United States, European Union and Turkey.
Turkish warplanes carried out an air strike in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region on Monday as part of a continued operation against the PKK, a local administration official said.
Turkey has been conducting air strikes against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since August following the breakdown of a ceasefire and an increase in attacks by the PKK.
“Turkish fighter jets bombed some remote border villages in Sedaka today,” Ahmed Qadir, a local government representative in the hamlet of Sedaka, near the Turkish-Iranian border in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, told Reuters.
“Information available does not say where exactly the areas targeted are or whether there were any casualties or damage.”
The PKK, regarded as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, launches attacks from hideouts inside the remote Iraqi mountains as part of their fight for more Kurdish autonomy and rights.
Turkey and Iran have often skirmished with PKK members in the region and Turkish leaders vowed revenge last month with air and ground strikes after the PKK killed 24 Turkish soldiers in raids on military outposts in the south of the country.
It was one of the deadliest attacks since the PKK took up arms in 1984 in a conflict in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.
Turkish authorities did not immediately confirm the operation.
Fırat news agency reported that five Turkish war planes had been flying over Iraq’s Qandil mountains but said it had not received any information about bombing in the area.
21 November 2011, Monday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH REUTERS,