Military operations target cutting drug money to PKK: Turkish interior minister
Abdulkadir Selvi – ANKARA – Hurriyet – 22 June 2016 – Destroying the cash flow to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) via the drug trade and blocking a main militant route was discussed at a recent cabinet meeting under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Interior Minister Efkan Ala has told a group of journalists.Ala said military operations in the Lice district of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır were the main topic of discussion during the cabinet meeting on June 20, stressing that they were important in cutting the income from drug trafficking of the PKK.
He added that the outlawed group was preparing bomb-laden cars used in attacks both in the east and in the west of Turkey in camps in the Şenyayla region of rural Lice. Ala’s remarks came as Turkish jets bombed PKK positions in northern Iraq and rural areas of Lice, targeting cannabis fields in the latter, where a ground operation was also carried out. “After setting up so-called cantons in northern Syria, the PKK upgraded the status of the camps in Şenyayla as it uses them as transfer points to other cities,” he also said.
Both National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar made presentations at the cabinet meeting, Ala stated. The meeting came just one day before Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on June 21 during an address to his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies that military operations against the PKK were over and it was now time for a “second phase” of reconstruction.
“Now the operations are over, there will be physical and social renovation. We are replacing destroyed buildings with more beautiful ones. Work is underway,” Yıldırım said. “As we have ended our operations, there are now some other steps we should take. It’s time to settle accounts with the municipalities supporting terrorism. You transfer the money allocated to you for public services to the terror organization. But we won’t allow this,” he added.
Ala elaborated on a new draft code on local municipalities, which may be submitted to parliament this month. “The core issue here is that [some] municipalities are using their business opportunities for some other goals. You give them the construction materials and they use them to dig trenches or build barricades [against security forces],” he added.
The new code will also include offering citizenship to foreign business people who invest a certain amount of cash in Turkey, Ala said.
The draft was fine-tuned at the June 20 cabinet meeting. Environment and Urban Minister Mehmet Özhaseki, the former mayor of the central Anatolian city of Kayseri, reportedly said at the meeting that governors would be given the authority to warn municipalities over neglected services such as roads or infrastructure and set deadlines. If the targets are still not fulfilled, provincial governor offices will undertake the work, using cash dedicated to municipalities by the state.
In addition, the Interior Ministry will be authorized to appoint mayors to replace those who are dismissed, upon offers by the governors. Amid plans to take legal action against municipalities and mayors from Turkey’s Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and its sister party, the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), the co-chair of the HDP urged on its electorate to “stand up” to defend the municipalities to which they are elected.
“Inspectors who are conducting investigations in our municipalities would disclose their findings if they had a conscience. They have been investigating for years. There is not a single [piece of] evidence,” HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said on June 21 at a parliamentary group meeting of his party. Numerous mayors from the HDP and the DBP have been suspended and detained, while many municipalities under the DBP have been subjected to investigations on charges related to “supporting autonomy,” “maintaining a co-chair structure,” and “terrorism.”
Meanwhile, a military source told Hürriyet that the target of the recent operations in Diyarbakır was to hit the drug trade along with destroying the explosive depots of the PKK. The source said the PKK had vast cannabis fields in the region. Since the start of the week, a vast anti-terror operation is ongoing in 25 villages in Diyarbakır after the declaration of curfews there.
Turkish fighter jets hit more targets of the PKK in southeastern Turkey and in northern Iraq on June 21, the military said in a statement on June 22. The Turkish Armed Forces hit the Zab and Metina regions of northern Iraq, destroying 15 PKK targets, including shelters, hideouts, and ammunition dumps, according to the statement. Separate airstrikes were carried out in Turkey’s southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır and Hakkari on June 21, where destroyed 20 PKK targets were destroyed, it also stated.