PKK’S CEMIL BAYIK EVALUATES STATE OF THE KURDISH INSURGENCY
Cemil Bayik, a leading member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan – PKK), gave a lengthy interview to a Kurdish news agency on the current state of the PKK’s insurgency against the Turkish government (Firat News Agency, July 29, 30; Yeni Ozgur Politika [Neu-Isenburg], August 5).
Together with alleged rival Murat Karayilan and military commander Fehman Hussein (a.k.a. Bahoz Erdal), Bayik is one of the PKK’s core leaders in the absence of the imprisoned Abdullah Ocalan. Under increasing pressure from the Turkish military in northern Iraq, Bayik was reported to have escaped across the border to Iran in May, where his small group was attacked by Iranian troops (Today’s Zaman, May 22; see also Terrorism Focus, May 20). Bayik’s military skills and leadership were criticized by Abdullah Ocalan during his 1999 trial, with Ocalan suggesting Bayik preferred to remain behind the frontlines. Little has been heard from Bayik since his flight to Iran, though it appears he may have now returned to northern Iraq.
Bayik points to the “toughened” policies of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP) towards the Kurdish people as proof the AKP is using the conflict to ingratiate itself with a civilian and military bureaucracy that was seeking to shut down the AKP. The PKK leader alleges a decision to pursue a military solution was made at a private meeting in June between General Ilker Basbug (who takes over as Chief of Staff this month) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Sabah, June 25). Nevertheless, “The PKK is powerful enough to dictate a solution to the Kurdish problem. A democratic solution could be possible if people and guerillas put up effective resistance.”
Regarding Ankara’s relations with Washington, Bayik charges Turkey with committing itself to U.S. policies in the region to earn American support against the PKK. The Turkish state “will resort to every possible method to create a dispute between us and the United States and political parties in Southern Kurdistan [northern Iraq] because experience it gained in the past decade showed it that it could not defeat Kurdish guerillas without external support.” Bayik seems to have regarded the United States as a potential ally in the past, alleging that U.S. authorities were in contact with the Iranian Kurdish wing of the PKK, the Party for Freedom in Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), which shares bases, equipment, and infrastructure with the PKK in the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq (AFP, November 23, 2006). Reports of American weapons being delivered to PJAK camps in the Qandil Mountains threatened to sever U.S.-Turkish relations last year before a new pact was worked out on intelligence sharing and other cooperation against the PKK.
Bayik denies U.S. and EU charges that the PKK finances itself through drug trafficking in Europe, suggesting that it is the Turkish state that uses profits from the drug trade to finance its battle against the PKK. The U.S. turns a blind eye to this in order to increase its popularity in Turkey and use Ankara to further its regional policy (see Terrorism Monitor, June 12). Bayik also comments on Turkey’s “deep-state” Ergenekon conspiracy, suggesting that the arrests of retired generals and other suspects was only part of an attempt by the AKP to garner U.S. and EU approval.
The improving relations between Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq are obviously worrisome for the PKK, whose bases are located in northern Iraq. Bayik cautions rather than condemns KRG leaders for recent remarks indicating an absence of support for the PKK’s struggle: “We cannot say that our relations with powers in South Kurdistan are not satisfactory… We are going through a period when more positive developments than negative ones could be witnessed from the standpoint of Kurdish people…We can say that the powers in South Kurdistan encourage Turkey by making wrongheaded statements.”
PAKISTAN’S TALIBAN THREATEN SUICIDE ATTACKS IF MILITARY OFFENSIVE IN SWAT IS NOT HALTED
Despite the existence of a two-month-old peace agreement between Pakistan’s government and tribal militants in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), heavy fighting in the NWFP’s Swat valley region is now in its second week. More than 200,000 people have been displaced by fighting with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (Dawn [Karachi], August 10). The failed peace agreement called for a withdrawal of government security forces from the NWFP and the implementation of Shari’a law. As part of the growing tensions between Pakistan and India, Pakistan’s security agencies now claim that the majority of the weapons used by the militants are made in India (The Nation [Islamabad], August 6).
Local militants have focused on the destruction of health clinics, girls’ schools, and bridges with planted explosives. As many as 70 schools have been destroyed, leaving 17,000 students without educational facilities. Teachers have been assassinated and several people beheaded, including a Shiite bank employee (Associated Press of Pakistan, August 10; BBC, August 6). Even tourist resorts, a backbone of the local economy in the scenic Swat valley, have been destroyed.
Pakistan’s military, while coming under criticism for the growing number of civilian casualties, also appears to be conducting a “hearts and minds” operation, providing residents of Swat with medicine and food free of cost, freeing prisoners, and compensating property owners for the destruction of their buildings (Associated Press of Pakistan, August 4; The News [Islamabad], August 5). Local jirgas (assemblies of elders) have appealed to both the Taliban and government forces to cease combat in populated areas (Nawa-e Waqt [Rawalpindi], August 6).
Eight policemen were killed when several busloads of militants attacked a police station in Swat’s Buner District. TTP spokesman Muslim Khan stated “We will continue targeting all those police officials who are taking part in the ongoing military operation against us” (Daily Times [Lahore] August 10; Dawn, August 10).
Taliban commander Ali Bakht, a close aide to regional Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, was killed together with 13 other militants on August 6 during a five-hour battle after Pakistan’s military blew up his house (Dawn, August 7; Daily Times, August 6). Ali Bakht was one of the chief negotiators of the peace deal reached with the NWFP’s ruling Awami National Party (ANP) and is one of a number of Taliban commanders to be killed as artillery fire and helicopter gunships pound Taliban positions.
Though the Taliban insist their casualties in Swat are slight, threats to initiate a wave of suicide bombings across Pakistan’s major cities unless the military offensive is called off suggest the Taliban is feeling pressure. TTP spokesman Maulvi Omar claims a squad of suicide bombers aged 15 to 20, including young women, has been assembled for this purpose: “A large number of women have been approaching us for the past few years and consistently wishing to be given an opportunity to sacrifice their lives for a noble cause” (The News, August 6).
There are indications both the provincial government and the Taliban tried to head off the offensive by offering to enter into negotiations, but Pakistan’s military leadership was fed up with repeated violations of the existing agreement, in particular the murder of three military intelligence agents and the kidnapping of 30 members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (The News, August 5). The Army has now decided driving the Taliban militants from the Swat valley is the only solution (Daily Times [Lahore], August 5).
Fighting has also erupted in numerous other parts of the NWFP and the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA), including the Bajaur Agency, where security forces claim over 100 militants have been killed in the last four days (Frontier Post [Peshawar], August 11).