Turkey saw almost 68,500 anti-terror ops in 12 months: Minister
Security forces carried out almost 68,500 nationwide counterterrorism operations over the last year, Turkey’s interior minister said on Sept. 28.
Speaking at Anadolu Agency’s Editors’ Desk in Ankara, Süleyman Soylu said 40,000 of those operations were against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), 25,000 against the Fethullah Gülen network, widely believed to have masterminded last year’s failed coup attempt, and over 2,100 against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Soylu said Turkey’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and armed drones have played an important role in dealing with the terror threat.
“We have significantly crippled the PKK’s mobility through UAVs, the intelligence we obtained, our assessments and monitoring,” he said, calling UAVs and armed drones “one of Turkey’s most significant innovations in the last few years.”
He said unmanned aerial vehicles have spent some 2,600 hours in counterterror operations this year, adding that the country’s counterterrorism teams are also targeting people financing terror in Turkish cities.
“We have ongoing operations in the cities especially against those elements financing terror. Those elements include municipalities, so-called civil society groups, and those aiding terror under the guise of political identity,” he said.
Soylu also said the PKK is seeing a 30-year low in recruitment and membership, something causing “serious demoralization” in the terror group.
More than 1,200 people, including security force personnel and civilians, have lost their lives since the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization also by the U.S., and EU -- resumed its decades-old armed campaign in July 2015, according to official data.
The interior minister also said the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has reached 3.2 million.
“A total of 330,744 of the refugees are staying in our camps according to our records.”
Turkey hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country in the world and it has spent around $25 billion helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, according to officials.
“We have around 250,000 migrants from Iraq. There are also migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Somalia,” Soylu said.
“There are around 4.5 million migrants in Turkey. The reason these migrants to come to Turkey and leave Turkey is another matter of foreign policy. We are working on these issues.”
There is a serious problem regarding drugs, which needs to be solved because “it is also a terror issue,” the minister said, arguing that said drug revenues of $1.5 million go to the PKK.
Soylu added that bonsai and other synthetic drugs are coming to Turkey from Europe, and Turkey is not a transit country, but the destination.
“They are trying to poison our children using these drugs. This is at the same time an important cultural issue,” he added.
“Our government, NGOs, and governor’s offices are working in coordination. NGOs especially need to focus on this issue. Over the last year, operations against drugs have tripled, and seizures have doubled.”