Kurdish, Far-Leftist Militants Step Up Violence in Turkey

Kurdish and far-leftist groups carry out a wave of attacks in the wake of a Turkish security crackdown.

Police in Istanbul, Turkey, October 9, 2010
Police in Istanbul, Turkey, October 9, 2010 (Arwcheek)

At least eight people were killed and many more wounded in several attacks on Turkish security forces and the American consulate in Istanbul on Monday.

Ten were injured when a vehicle bomb exploded outside a police station in Turkey’s largest city and former capital. A police officer and two assailants later died in a gunfight.

Across town, in the Maslak business district on the European side of the city, two women shot at the consulate building of Turkey’s NATO ally the United States.

The far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front — which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies — said one of its members was involved in the area.

No one was killed and one of the shooters was apprehended.

In the south of Turkey, militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) destroyed an armored personnel carrier, killing four security forces, and fired at an army helicopter, killing one soldier. Turkey retaliated by striking PKK hideouts in the area.

The wave of violence comes weeks after Turkey allowed the United States and other allies to use its Incirlik Air Base to stage attacks against the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey joined the offensive against the fanatical Islamist group but simultaneously launched airstrikes against the PKK and arrested hundreds of people suspected of links with radical Islamist, Kurdish and far-leftist groups.

Western countries had long urged Turkey — which has the largest army in the region — to join the campaign against the Islamic State. Led by the United States, an alliance of Arab and Western countries carries out airstrikes against the caliphate which controls areas in eastern Syria as well as western Iraq.

Turkey hesitated because action against the Islamists could benefit their main rivals for control of the north of Syria: Kurdish fighters who are affiliated with the PKK.

The resumption of PKK violence against the Turkish state last month appeared to have convinced President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to get more involved.

The group, which has fought for Kurdish self-determination in Turkey since 1984, killed four policemen in the wake of a suicide bombing in Suruç, a mainly Kurdish town close to the Syrian border, that killed 32 activists. Although the attack was carried out by a supporter of the Islamic State, the PKK blamed the Turkish government.

Cemil Bayık, one of the PKK’s top leaders, told the BBC that Erdoğan was “protecting” the Islamic State in order to put pressure on the Kurds. “His aim is to stop the Kurdish advance against them, thus advancing his aim of Turkishness in Turkey,” he claimed.

Al-Monitor earlier reported that the bulk of Turkish airstrikes on the frontier targeted the PKK and their Syrian ally, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Although Turkey allowed weapons and foreign fighters to cross its border into Syria and aided less fanatical Islamists in the country to help bring about the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad, it denies it ever abetted the Islamic State.

The group, which is shunned by other Islamists — including the international terrorist organization Al Qaeda — now controls swaths of the desert between Aleppo in the northwest of Syria, Mosul in the north of Iraq and Ramadi to the south, near Baghdad.

Erdoğan also has a political imperative to target the Kurds and far-leftist groups. His Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority in parliament in June when the left-wing and pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) crossed the 10 percent election threshold for the first time. The AKP is struggling to form a coalition government and early elections are anyway likely. To win back its majority, the AKP needs to depress support for a party it claims is tied to the PKK.

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