The fallout from the terror campaign waged by Turkey’s Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) transcends a single country; it directly affects Iraq, Europe, as well as the United States.
After the recent Turkish incursion of northern Iraqi Kurdistan to crush PKK havens was abruptly curtailed by Washington, US Vice President Richard Cheney made a detour to the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Irbil during his visit to Baghdad earlier this month. He went there to warn President Masoud Barzani it was time to put a stop to PKK terror operations against Turkey and deny them sanctuary in Kurdistan.
If the Iraqi Kurds did not take action before the spring thaw in the Kurdish mountains, Cheney could not promise PKK bases would be safe from further Turkish incursions.
The Kurdish leaders understood him to be advising them to undertake the task themselves, rather than leaving it to Turkish troops.
Turkey’s high command has a precise breakdown of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party’s sources of revenue.
Of concern to Europe in particular are disclosures made at a recent lecture by Gen. Ergin Saygun, deputy chief of the Turkish General Staff. He reported that the PKK has a yearly income of 400-500 million euros, which is obtained from drug dealing, human trafficking, money laundering, smuggling and donations, mainly in Europe.
He described the Kurdish group as “a terrorist organization which is also an organized criminal mafia.” It subsists on revenue from illegal sources – according to Saygun, they are arms trafficking, not only for their own fighting men but also for fellow terrorist and criminal organizations.
About terrorist groups in general, the Turkish general had this to say: “They claim they represent ethnic groups or great belief groups. So they carry out their activities in the name of the ideologies of Islam, people’s independence, minority rights, Jihad, democratic rights and freedoms, thereby seeking legitimacy for their activities. We should not fall into this trap.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources report: While the US has provided real-time intelligence for Turkish attacks on PKK bases in northern Iraq, little attention has been paid to its activities on the European continent, where most of the funding for the Kurdish Workers’ Party’s attacks is raised by fronts and criminal networks.
Funds raised in Europe by 400 affiliates
According to recent NATO figures, the illicit narcotics trade is the most profitable. It ranges from production in Pakistan and distillation in Iraq to street sales in Europe. This recalls the Taliban of Afghanistan and the Hizballah of Lebanon, both of which makes a pretty penny off their countries’ poppy fields
The PKK’s second most profitable activity is human trafficking.
According to Turkish authorities, the Kurdish terrorists use a network of 400 affiliates in Europe – mainly in Germany – to raise funds through legitimate or semi-legitimate commercial activities and donations.
The network includes affiliate or sympathizer organizations, such as the Confederation of Kurdish Associations in Europe (KON-KURD, headquartered in Brussels) and the International Kurdish Businessmen Union (KAR-SAZ, in Rotterdam).
The PKK also has a vast European propaganda and fundraising network that includes two news agencies, four television stations, thirteen radio stations, ten newspapers, nineteen periodicals, and three publishing houses.
Revenues from its criminal activities and fronts pay the group's weapons purchases in Europe. Between 1984 and 2006, Turkey confiscated a total of 40,045 PKK weapons, on most of which identifying marks had been deleted. Nevertheless, some were traced to Italy, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, and Russia.
Moreover, of the 8,015 mines captured by Turkey, 4,857 came from Italy and 2,268 from Russia and the ex-Soviet republics.
Such large quantities of weapons, often stored in military depots, should not have disappeared without alerting the authorities. The British Foreign Office acknowledged in January 2008 that the PKK and its affiliate organizations had been active in Britain and other European countries since 2001. As a result, London announced that “foreign terrorist organizations would not be allowed to exploit the territories of the United Kingdom to fundraise any more.”
Most European states have also officially recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization. Accordingly, they are taking some concrete steps against the group. For example, in January 2008, a local Berlin court found a Turkish citizen guilty of leading an underground PKK cell in Bavaria since 1994 and sentenced him to nearly three years in prison.
Clearly, the Americans feel it is high time to deal seriously with the PKK – not just for the sake of Ankara but to curb its criminal activities in Europe and the region.