KURDISH REBEL LEADER REACHES OUT TO ARABS, THREATENS ISRAEL
Last week a London-based Arabic-language internet daily carried an interview with Fehman Hussein, a Syrian Kurd and long-time PKK militant who now leads the Hezen Parastina Gel (People’s Defense Force, or HPG), the armed wing of the PKK (elaph.com, February 13). The militant leader goes by the war name of Dr. Bahoz Erdal.
Under steady pressure from the Turkish armed forces, the HPG commander appeared to back off from the military struggle with Turkey: “We do not look on the struggle from a purely military angle. Our cause is political in the first place and we believe that the real solution will be political and achieved through peaceful dialogue. We do not use the traditional methods of national liberation movements.” With the hard-pressed PKK increasingly without friends in the international community, Erdal maintains that the group is still capable of resisting and enduring without foreign support. This is due to the steadfast loyalty of “the Kurdish masses.”
Erdal criticizes the adversarial relationship between Kurds and Iraqi Arabs, suggesting that Arab intellectuals were working from outdated models of Kurdish-Arab relations while ignoring shared characteristics. “The Arabs are neighbors who are linked to us by the same destiny and history, in which Arabs and Kurds wrote shining chapters… We do not want to lay the blame on Arab intellectuals alone. We also have shortcomings in this sphere, specifically in how we address Arab public opinion, express ourselves, and acquaint the Arabs with our cause through our policy toward them.” Erdal also complains that the Arab press describes the Kurdish struggle from the viewpoint of the Turkish state.
The HPG commander also addressed reports of Turkish-Israeli military cooperation with a warning: “This cooperation is primarily directed against our movement. We might revise our attitude toward Israel and adopt a strong reaction against it if it persists in its hostile policy toward the Kurds and their liberation movement.”
Turkish media have reported a breakdown in the PKK command through the growth of Syrian and Turkish factions, though these reports have not been confirmed. An alleged attempt by Dr. Erdal to poison his partner in the PKK leadership, Murat Karayılan, resulted in the death by poison of six of Karayılan’s aides and the execution of four Syrian-born Kurds in response (Hürriyet, February 17). Karayılan is also reported to have narrowly escaped death during a Turkish air raid when he gave his satellite phone to one of his followers. Karayılan tested to see if his phone was being traced to reveal his location by calling his own number. Seconds later the unfortunate guerrilla was obliterated by a Turkish missile (Milliyet, February 14).
WAS BAITULLAH MEHSUD BEHIND THE SPANISH TERROR OPERATION?
A Catalonian newspaper claims to have interviewed Maulvi Umar, spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud’s Tehrek-e-Taliban-Pakistan (El Periodico, February 11). The satellite phone interview follows a round-up of Pakistani and Indian terrorist suspects in Catalonia. Spanish police claim the alleged members of the Tablighi Jamaat were planning a bombing of Barcelona’s transit system on the orders of Baitullah Mehsud (see Terrorism Focus, February 13).The spokesman admitted the cell was trained and sent to Spain by the Tehrek-e-Taliban, but claimed the members were acting independently when they planned the suicide attacks.
The Spanish military deployment in Afghanistan was the cause for the planned attacks. “It is a proven fact that the Spanish government has not sent its troops to Afghanistan to reconstruct the country, nor for humanitarian reasons; they are not in Afghanistan to benefit the country, nor to foster its rights or to render a service to humanity, they only want to suppress Muslims’ liberty; we will oppose them and resist them.” Maulvi Umar also insisted that Muslims in Spain are “treated as second-class citizens.” The Taliban spokesman defended attacks in Europe by saying: “When there are forces destroying you, then you have the right to harm wherever possible, even abroad.” The Barcelona cell was only an advance party of Taliban members on their way to NATO countries with military missions in Afghanistan, according to Umar, who adds that Pakistan’s Taliban and al-Qaeda are independent of each other but share the same ideology and program.