FLASH : Turkey seizes PKK marijuana stash in major crackdown

 Agence France-Presse – December 16, 2012 1:08 AM – DIYARBAKIR, Turkey – The Turkish army has seized more than 20 tonnes of marijuana from Kurdish rebels in what local authorities said Saturday was one of the biggest ever crackdowns on “terrorist income.”

“We have unearthed 21-tonnes of marijuana, as well as several cells filled with ammunition and explosives,” said Mustafa Toprak, governor of the Kurdish-majority Diyarbakir province in Turkey’s southeast. The stash, with an estimated street value of 17 million euros ($22.4 million), was seized after hundreds of special security forces were deployed Thursday.

“The operation landed a huge blow to the terrorist income,” Toprak said, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose main source of income is believed to be drug trafficking. Ankara says Turkish troops frequently seize sacks full of hashish and marijuana near Turkey’s border with Iran and Syria, where the PKK stashes the bags for shipment to Europe.

In October, marijuana with an estimated value of 1.5 million euros was seized in the eastern province of Van. Several PKK leaders are labelled as suspected drug traffickers in the United States, which has frozen their assets and shunned them from doing business in the US. This year has seen an increase in drug seizures in Turkey, as well as an escalation of clashes between the PKK and Turkish forces, which have claimed 45,000 lives since rebels took up arms in 1984.