Turkish army chief says military after key PKK leaders

26 September 2012 / TODAYSZAMAN.COM, – Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel said the military has stepped up operations to capture key leaders of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in an interview with a Turkish daily on Wednesday.“They are well protected and they frequently change location. We are working to render them ineffective,” Özel told the Türkiye daily.

Özel said the PKK sees 2012 as its “final year” and it is exerting strong efforts and taking risks as part of this belief. “But they will not succeed in this,” he said, referring to the increasing number of terrorist attacks by the PKK in recent months.  The military chief said 110 soldiers were killed between Jan. 1 and Sept. 24 in clashes with the PKK while 427 terrorists were killed by security forces. He said 117 terrorists surrendered to security forces during this period and 54 were captured alive.

Özel also said he sees recent police operations against the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that encompasses the PKK, are a vital part of Turkey’s counterterrorism efforts. “Fighting with the collaborators of the terrorist organization is as important as fighting with terrorists. Capturing those who disseminate fear and violence in the region [Turkey’s Southeast], who enlist members for the terrorist organization by force … and who provoke our people against the state is of vital importance for ensuring the continuity of our state and safety of our people,” Özel said.

The KCK is a political umbrella organization that includes the PKK terrorist organization. An investigation into the group began in December 2009. A large number of Kurdish politicians, including several mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), have also been arrested pending trial as part of the investigation.

During the interview, the military chief was also asked about recent claims that the trial of dozens of active duty military officers as part of ongoing investigations by civilian prosecutors will weaken counterterrorism efforts. Özel dismissed the claims, saying, “The trials would not affect our fight against terrorism.” “The situation of our personnel who are on trial worries us. But it is out of question that this would weaken our determination in the fight,” he said. Özel added that the military takes necessary precautions to counter such possible weaknesses due to the imprisonment of dozens of high-ranking officers.