PKK fire at Turkish military helicopter rings alarm bells over peace process
In a development likely to raise more questions over the fate of the ongoing peace process, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) announced on June 21 that a military helicopter carrying command staff in a mountainous area in the southeastern Anatolian province of Hakkari on June 20 was targeted by open fire.
The TSK posted a statement with titled “Opening of fire on helicopter by members of separatist terrorist organization” on its official website on June 21.
“On June 20, 2013, at around 6:40 p.m., Command-Control helicopter (S-70) carrying Gendarme Security Corps Commander and the third division commander alongside the command delegation was fired at four times over the İkiyaka Mountains in the Yüksekova town of the Hakkari province by terrorists. The helicopter made a maneuver of aversion and moved away swiftly from the fire zone and landed safely to Hakkari Mountain and Command Brigadier. Upon checks conducted on the helicopter, it was identified that a bullet, by entering the right cargo front window, damaged the helicopter’s main girder and was stuck on the upper boundary of the control box,” the brief statement read.
When considering particular developments that took place since early June, this latest announcement has the potential to ring alarm bells over the process which is aimed at ending the three-decade-long conflict between the TSK and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Selahattin Demirtaş has repeatedly voiced demands for an acceleration of the legal reforms to make sure that the peace process remains on track. On June 19, a delegation of BDP deputies, who met the Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, reiterated their demand for the Parliament to continue working on the legislation package, defined as second phase by Demirtaş, as a “token of will,” instead of taking a 3-month break.
Demirtaş also recently warned the government that they were leading the process into a deadlock. “The government is about to lock the process,” he said on June 18, while addressing his party’s parliamentary group.
Acting military commander of the PKK, Murat Karayılan, also underlined their discontent over the government’s lack of action on the process. “Actually with these practices, the state, if it is appropriate to say, is doing its best to sabotage the process. It is getting ready for war,” he said during an interview with the Fırat news agency on June 19.
As of June 17, a group of BDP members and some civil society organization representatives marched from the southeastern province of Şırnak’s center to Mount Kato to carry a PKK member’s body to his family. Zeki Erdem, a PKK militant, was killed on July 14, 2012, in a clash with the TSK. His family’s request to have their son’s grave in his hometown was accepted by Turkish officials and the handover was completed with a huge crowd.
As of June 3, the TSK announced in a statement that a group of militants from the PKK opened fire at the Turkish Karaçalı military base in the southeastern province of Şırnak, where a gendarme specialist sergeant was slightly injured. The statement added that air reconnaissance operations to 62 points had been conducted in the area for self-defense.