PKK chief hit in drone-backed operation
Uğur Ergan - ANKARA
Turkish authorities say İsmail Özden was actively operating in Europe from 1992 to 1996. Arrested in Germany for "being PKK member" and "attacking workplaces of Turkish people" in 1996, Özden was released in 1998. In 2018, he began spearheading PKK/KCK activities in Sinjar, according to Turkish officials.
A senior figure of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was killed in a joint operation by the Turkish military and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) backed by unmanned aerial vehicles in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on Aug. 15.
İsmail Özden—codenamed Mam “Uncle” Zaki Shingali—was reportedly responsible for the group’s activities in the Sinjar town and was also a member of the group’s so-called “executive council.” Özden was reported to have been in charge of the PKK’s illegal drug and arms trafficking in the region.
Turkish intelligence spotted the whereabouts of Özden with the help of local intelligence along with other intelligence instruments following months of long research.
Firstly, it was Özden’s camp the Turkish military targeted. But once the PKK figure fled the scene, his vehicle was spotted by drones and resultantly bombed by military warplanes, as shown in a video released by Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency.
Security sources have said the killing of Özden has now created “fear” among other senior PKK figures.
A Turkish security official said the PKK had taken “a heavy blow” with the killing of Özden on the 35th anniversary of the launching of the PKK’s armed campaign.
Turkish authorities say Özden, 66, was actively operating in Europe from 1992 to 1996. Arrested in Germany for “being a PKK member” and “attacking workplaces of Turkish people” in 1996, Özden was released in 1998. In 2018, he began spearheading PKK activities in Sinjar, according to Turkish officials.
Özden is the first PKK militant in the “red-category” of Turkey’s “most wanted terrorists,” who was killed by the military in an operation abroad.
The wanted list is divided into five color-coded categories, with red as most wanted followed by blue, green, orange and gray.
The operation was named after Bedirhan Mustafa Karakaya, an 11-month baby who was killed in a PKK bomb attack on July 31.
Meanwhile, the Turkish army said on Aug. 17 that it “neutralized” 52 PKK militants, including seven “senior members,” in northern Iraq and on Turkish soil over the past week.
Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.
In a statement, the Turkish General Staff said on Aug. 10-16, the army conducted anti-terror operations in Turkey’s eastern provinces and in northern Iraq.
Separately, the military said since the launch of Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin region, a total of 4,573 militants have been neutralized.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” to remove People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants from Afrin. Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian extension of the PKK.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.