Saturday, September 8, 2012

Turkey Crosses Iraq Border Again: Kurdistan Update, 2-8 September 2012

Kurds demonstrating in Aleppo, Syria, this week

26 Dead as Turkish Air Force Pounds Positions in Northern Iraq and Şirnak.  The Turkish air force and army pounded suspected Kurdish rebel positions along both sides of the border between Turkey and Iraq on September 5th, with about 2,000 ground troops, 10 F-16 fighter jets, and several Cobra helicopters involved in the battle, part of which focused on Kato mountain in Turkey’s Şirnak province.  By the next day, one soldier was reported killed and two injured.  The Dwele region in northern Iraq’s mountains was hit by bombers.  There were no indications that Turkish ground troops had crossed the border into Iraq, which would have represented a raising of stakes by Ankara.  On September 7th, Turkish authorities announced that 26 Kurdish rebels had been killed in the two-day offensive.

31 Killed in Ongoing Violence in Turkish Kurdistan.  Thirty-one people were killed this week in the ongoing civil war between Turks and Kurds in southeastern Turkey.  On August 31st, a bomb derailed a train in Van province, damaging four train cars but causing no injuries.  Soon after, six Turkish soldiers on their way to investigate the blast site were hurt when a remote-controlled roadside bomb hit their vehicle.  The same day, fighting that followed an attack by the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) on a police station in Beytüşşebap, in Şirnak province, killed 10 Turkish soldiers and 20 P.K.K. fighters.  Acting on a tip, police forces in Şanlıurfa province, in the southeastern Kurdistan region, intercepted what they reported to be an attempted suicide-bombing on September 2nd.  The tip was reportedly that a suicide bomber was attempting to cross into Turkey from Syria.  A black minivan approached and opened fire on a police checkpoint on the evening of the 2nd, injuring three police and a nearby civilian.  In the ensuing firefight, one militant from the P.K.K. was wounded and captured, while another another reportedly detonated his suicide vest and died while being pursued on foot.  The dead militant was later identified as the perpetrator of an August 9th landmine attack on a military bus in İzmir province (reported on at the time in this blog).  In further reverberations from the İzmir attack, authorities are suggesting that three villagers found shot and killed in a field on August 7th were witnesses killed by the planners of the İzmir attack to prevent it being foiled.  Meanwhile, it was reported that the P.K.K. had released a state official named Ubeydullah Sancar, who was kidnapped in Diyarbakir on August 17th, but on September 4th the P.K.K. announced it had the day before abducted the Hakkari provincial head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (A.K.P.), Majid Tarhan.  An explosion at an armory in Afyonkarahisar, in Afyon province, which killed 25 soldiers on September 5th, was ruled an accident and, according to authorities, “not a terrorist attack” (though, as a military target, it would not have fallen under the category of terrorism anyway).


B.D.P. Claims Kurdish Rebels Control 400 Square Km of Southeast Turkey.  The main pro-Kurdish party in mainstream Turkish politics is inciting controversy by claiming that the banned separatist P.K.K. controls 400 square kilometers of southeastern Turkey following a pitched battle in July and August for the city of Şemdinli, in Hakkari province.  Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bekir Bozdağ, called the claim, by Serkan Demirtaş of the Peace and Democracy Party (B.D.P.), “not even a claim, but a lie.”  Adnan Keskin, deputy chair of another opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (C.H.P.), supported Ankara’s position, stating, “Demirtaş stated that the P.K.K. controls 400 square kilometers, and he invited any minister to see this situation with his own eyes,” and that “the P.K.K. has an ‘open land control strategy,’ meaning that the P.K.K. controls all the land,” but that “control of such a large area requires a minimum of 10,000 people [and] there [are] only 700 terrorists in the area.”  Presumably in response to the B.D.P. assertion, Turkish flags began showing up on mountaintops around Şemdinli.

C.I.A. Director Petraeus in Istanbul to Discuss Syria, Kurds.  The director of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.), David Petraeusarrived in Istanbul on September 3rd for unannounced, high-level talks with the Republic of Turkey on matters that include the civil war in Syria and the Kurdish rebellion there and in Turkey.  Sources say that another central topic of the talks were deteriorations in relations between Turkey and Israel, in part over last year’s incident on the high seas, in which Israeli troops stormed a passenger vessel bringing humanitarian relief to the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip and, according to a United Nations report, “summarily executed” nine Turkish activists on board.

David Petraeus
Taliban Calls for Kurdish Volunteers in Afghanistan Recruitment Video.  The Taliban, the radical Salafist terrorist group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has begun specifically targeting Kurds, whom it asks to come to Afghanistan to “join the jihad.”  In a video released August 15th on a Turkish website, Maulvi Sangin Zadran, commander of the Haqqani Network, which is a branch of the Taliban, refers to seven members of Turkey’s military recently killed by jihadists in Afghanistan and asks not just Kurds but even ethnic Turks to join the battle against Afghanistan’s occupiers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including the United States and Turkey.  A terrorism expert, Karen Hodgson, noted that the move was unusual, writing, “The few radical Islamic groups that are thought to include Kurds have been active mostly in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, the main one being the Kurdistan Brigades—a group linked to the Salafi-Jihadi Ansar al-Islam movement, the insurgent group bombed by U.S. forces during the 2003 American invasion.”  A Turkey expert, Gareth Jenkins, said, however, that “there were certainly ethnic Kurds going to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan prior to the U.S.-led military campaign in late 2001.  Most of the Turkish nationals responsible for the 2003 Istanbul bombings were ethnic Kurds who had travelled to Afghanistan for training, thought with al-Qaeda, not the Taliban.”


Iraqi Kurdistan Extends Deadline for Disputed Payments by Baghdad.  The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) in northern Iraq announced September 1st that it would continue pumping oil until September 15th, “as a goodwill gesture” extending the deadline for an ultimatum to the central Iraqi government in Baghdad to make payments the K.R.G. claims are owed firms working in Kurdistan.  The exports were halted in April but restarted in August pending negotiations.  In reply, Baghdad threatened to cut the K.R.G.’s federal budget allocations by $3 billion.

[Note: See these earlier articles from this blog on related topics, especially with respect to the Kurds and the Arab Spring: “And Now Civil War ... Could Syria Break Up?” (Nov. 2011), “The Iraq War Is Over, but Is Iraq’s Partition Just Beginning?” (Dec. 2011), “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012” (Dec. 2011); “Get Ready for a Kurdish Spring” (March 28, 2012); “Shifting Alliances in the Kurdish Struggles” (April 1, 2012); “Turkish Delights Hide Ugly History” (April 4, 2012);  “Syria’s Kurds Are Setting Up a Quasi-State—How Long Can It Last?” (July 2012), “Liberation of Syrian Kurdistan Infuriates Turkey, Iraq, and the Free Syrian Army—in Fact, Everyone but Assad” (Aug. 2012), “Turkish Kurdistan Ground War in Progress, Iraq Border Crisis Eases: Kurdistan and Syria Update” (Aug. 2012), “Kurdistan Update: Both Turks & PKK Claim to Control Şemdinli, Zaza MP Abducted, Donna D’Errico and Noah’s Ark” (Aug. 2012), “Carnage Continues in Turkish Kurdistan” (Aug. 2010), “Syria and Kurdistan Update, 26 August–1 September 2012.”]

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it in spring 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

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