On the Warpath under New Leadership

Turkey has placed its armed forces on alert in response to a declaration of war coming from the Turkish Kurdish terrorist group, the Kongri Jela, from its mountain bases in northern Iraqi Kurdistan. This group is the successor to the PKK led by Abdullah Ocalan, the architect of armed Kurdish nationalism in Turkey.


Tuesday, June 1, DEBKA+-Net-Weekly’s counter-terrorism in the north Iraqi town of Suleimaniya report, the Kurdish terrorists announced they no longer recognize the six-year ceasefire which Ocalan accepted as the price for commuting to life imprisonment the death sentence handed down against him by a Turkish military court on charges of terrorism.


The Kongri Jela threatened to launch attacks in Turkey and against the European Union.


It was good as its word. Next day, they struck Turkish units near the town of Avacik in Tunceli province.


Ocalan is the sole inmate of the Imrali island prison on the Sea of Marmara.


In its declaration, the Kongri Jel said the ceasefire had been nullified by the more than 700 operations Turkish security forces had carried out over the past six years against its cells – raids in which more than 500 Kurds died. The group announced it had no more interest in negotiations with Turkey; if Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan wanted talks, he could take a boat trip to Imrali and speak with Ocalan.


Kongri Jel’s surprising threat to the European Union came with a demand that its name be removed from the union’s list of terrorist organizations or else its European cells would mete out harsh punishment to member countries.


Our sources believe that Zubair Aydar, the rising Kongri Jel leader who has shunted aside Ocalan’s brother Osman, is the driving force behind the threat. Aydar’s strategy is clear: He means to capitalize on the coming six months during which Turkey will be on probation for EU membership and will dare not embark on a bloody crackdown on the group without killing its chances of admission. The Europeans are on the spot too; failure to remove Kongri Jel’s name from their terrorist roster could bring down on their heads Kurdish terror on top of the prospect of more al Qaeda operations.


Aydar has a price for holding off. He will spare the EU violence in return for a full pardon for Kongri Jel operatives in Turkish and European jails and the easing of Ocalan’s conditions in prison. Our sources say Aydar has gathered some 3,000 to 5,000 fighters in the mountains of Kurdistan, while a similar number is on hand in Syria and around European cities with large Kurdish immigrant populations.


As for the Kongri Jel haven in northern Iraq, the Kurdish moderates Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani have developed cold feet from Aydar’s aggressive posture. They fear he might prejudice their aspirations at a particularly sensitive time when they need stability and calm to promote the establishment of their autonomous Kurdish entity in northern Iraq. A Turkish military invasion of northern Iraq to destroy Kongri Jel bases could also destroy Iraqi Kurdish hopes of self-rule.


Our sources in Kurdistan and Ankara report that Talabani and Barzani sent Braham Salah, as soon as he was appointed Iraq’s deputy prime minister this week, on a secret trip to the Turkish capital. Salah delivered a signed pledge from both his principals to prevent Aydar’s forces from striking Turkish targets from Iraqi soil.


Iraq’s new president, Iyad Allawi, and prime minister, Ghazi al-Yawar, endorsed this move. They are both aware of the enormous difficulties they face in exercising their authority from Baghdad in key areas of the country.


According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terrorism sources, the Turks took little comfort in the Iraqi Kurdish pledge. Aydar’s men can always relocate in Syria and strike Turkey from there. It would be easy for them to blend in with the large, transient Kurdish population that drifts between Syria and Turkey.

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