Turkey arrests some 1300 PKK-linked suspects, less than 300 ISIL-linked suspects since late July

Turkey arrests some 1300 PKK-linked suspects, less than 300 ISIL-linked suspects since late July

Turkey arrests some 1300 PKK-linked suspects, less than 300 ISIL-linked suspects since late July

AA Photo

While more than 1,300 suspects have been arrested for their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and their affiliates since operations were launched following the deadly Suruç bombing on July 20, only 276 suspects have been arrested for their links to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to figures announced by Justice Minister Kenan İpek.

İpek, speaking to reporters on Oct. 20, provided a picture of Turkey’s ongoing operations against mainly the PKK, ISIL and the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), which have intensified since the July 20 suicide bomb attack in border town of Suruç in southeastern Şanlıurfa province which killed 34 people. 

“With effective work having been carried out since July 22 after the Suruç massacre up to today, 1,308 people who are members of the PKK, the KCK [the Kurdish Communities Union, the PKK’s umbrella group], the YGH [the Patriotic Youth Movement] and the YDG-H [the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement, the youth wing of the PKK] have been arrested,” İpek said.

“From members of Daesh [ISIL] and al-Qaeda, 276 of them, and 89 members of the DHKP-C and other leftist organizations, have been arrested. In total, 1,673 arrests were made,” the minister said.

“As of today, 271 Daesh members have been imprisoned, with 264 of them under arrest and seven of them convicted,” he said. Among them, 212 suspects were arrested after July 22, he added.

He noted some 1,463 people were released on probation after July 22, without elaborating.

After months of wavering Turkey agreed on July 23 following the Suruç suicide bombing which was blamed ISIL - an arch-foe of the PKK and its U.S.-backed Syrian affiliate - to partner with the United States in launching joint air strikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq. The military operations against ISIL in Syria and the PKK in Iraq on July 23 and 24, in retaliation to their attacks in Turkey on July 20, 22 and 23, were accompanied by simultaneous police raids in Turkey where hundreds of people with suspected links to ISIL, the PKK and the DHKP-C were taken into custody.

Four people were killed in a bombing at a Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) rally in southeastern Diyarbakır on June 5, only two days before the June 7 parliamentary elections.

On Oct. 10, a peace rally, where the HDP was among the organizers, in the capital was attacked by two suicide bombers, killing at least 102 people. On Oct. 19, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that one of the two suicide bombers in the Oct.10 Ankara massacre was Yunus Emre Alagöz, the brother of Şeyh Abdurrahman Alagöz, who was the perpetrator of the Suruç attack.
Soon after pounding ISIL positions in Syria, Ankara quickly turned its attention to strike the PKK in northern Iraq. More than 150 Turkish security personnel have been killed since July, leaving a three-year-old peace process in tatters and raising concern about the security of the snap parliamentary election set for Nov. 1. The government meanwhile claims to have killed more than 1,700 PKK militants in a relentless bombing campaign.

İpek, meanwhile, defended himself in the face of insistent calls from the opposition to resign due to his failure in the Oct. 10 attack and his behavior in the aftermath of the attack. 

“A reflex of mine is still subject to debate. The main opposition party leader is still bringing to the agenda a reaction of mine upon the resignation question at the meeting,” İpek said.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has insistently called for the resignations or dismissals of both İpek and Interior Minister Selami Altınok following the attack.

During a joint press conference with Altınok and Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, İpek was recorded smirking after a Reuters reporter asked if he was considering resigning from his post. The press conference was arranged only a few hours after the explosions in the capital city

The justice, transportation and interior ministries are held by “impartial” ministers in the run-up to the Nov. 1 vote.