Turkey has killed more than 300 members of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the aerial strikes launched against the organization since Aug. 17 following the PKK's killing of dozens of soldiers in southeastern Turkey, intelligence reports said.
The country is preparing for a land operation following the Eid al-Fitr.
According to information from intelligence units, 320 PKK militants have been killed in the latest operations.
Turkey began launching aerial strikes against PKK hideouts in northern Iraq as of Aug. 17, when the PKK killed eight soldiers in a brutal attack in the Çukurca district of Hakkari.
The military operations against the PKK came following a statement by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said he had lost patience with militants fighting in southeastern Turkey.
Turkish warplanes have bombed the PKK camps and logistics centers in the Zap, Avaşin-Basyan and Hakurk regions, which the PKK used as springboard to launch attacks against Turkey.
Turkey's last land and air cross-border operation against the PKK took place in 2008. According to data from the Turkish General Staff, some 240 PKK militants were killed in these operations while 24 Turkish soldiers were martyred.
It is said that Iranian military operations against camps of the militant organization around Mount Kandil since July 16 have also played a role in the PKK's big loss in clashes with the Turkish military operations as the militant organization is being increasingly cornered.
Having its logistics centers destroyed, the PKK is unlikely to spend the winter around Mount Kandil. Intelligence reports warn that the PKK may carry out some sensational attacks in order to eliminate pressure on them, which has prompted Turkish security units to tighten security measures at home.
Turkey targets PKK leadership
It is said that the goal of the Turkish military operations against the PKK is to capture the militant organization's leaders. A special team of 60 members reportedly participates in the operations against PKK camps to capture senior PKK leaders.
In the meantime, the controversy about the whereabouts of one of the PKK leaders, Murat Karayılan, continues. Early this month, Iranian intelligence units claimed having captured Karayılan; however, they later denied these reports, saying that Iran captured a high-level PKK member which is not Karayılan. The fact that Karayılan has not appeared since the news about his alleged capture broke, still keeps his situation a small mystery.
The militant PKK, which announced that it will release a video showing Karayılan in order to invalidate claims about his alleged capture, has still not released any such video. Instead of speaking to PKK-affiliated TV stations, Karayılan has opted for written statements. In consideration of Karayılan's mysterious disappearance, experts say he might have really been captured by Iran or that he may have fled to another country or region.
On Saturday, İbrahim Şahin, head of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), which was the first to broadcast the news about Karayılan's capture by Iran on Aug. 14, said his institution still stands by its coverage of Karayılan's alleged capture.
"It would be too definite for us to say that he was captured but still we stand by our reporting. I wish we could have supported our news with video but we could not achieve this," Şahin noted.
He also noted that he asked the Iranian state channel, Press TV, for a video showing Karayılan's capture. The president of this institution reportedly told him that he will take care of his request. "This confirms the correctness of our news," Şahin said.
Chaos in PKK
Military operations carried out by Turkey and Iran against the PKK and PEJAK, the Iranian branch of the PKK, also seem to have created a fight for leadership within the ranks of the PKK. The fact that none of the PKK leaders have denied the reports about Karayılan's capture lends evidence for this internal power struggle.
Karayılan and Cemil Bayık, another senior PKK member, are known for their close ties with Iran. In case of their elimination from the PKK, there are fears that the militant organization might become marginalized and controlled by the more hawkish and pro-violence figures.
There are reports that the PKK is increasingly under the control of Murat Karasu, Ali Haydar Kaytan, Duran Kalkan and Syrian national Fehman Hüseyin. Experts say that the PKK may have difficulty in finding support from the Kurds in the event of these figures' assuming leadership because Kaytan and Karasu are of Alevi origin while Kalkan is a hard line left-winger.
If the PKK is headed by these figures, it may carry out more bloody attacks but at the same time lose the public support in the process, experts say.
The political leadership of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) seems to have been affected by the chaos within the PKK. BDP co-chairpersons Selahattin Demirtaş and Gülten Kışanak have called on the state to reveal the content of its talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in a surprise development.
"We want the talks in İmralı [where Öcalan is jailed] to be carried out publicly," Demirtaş, said recently. The number of PKK leaders who think that Öcalan cannot think clearly because he is under pressure rapidly rises.
Following Demirtaş's call upon the government, Kışanak made a similar statement last week in a manifestation of the confusion within the ranks of the party. "The only thing the state has done so far in establishing a dialogue with Kurds has been to send a delegation of state officials to meet with Öcalan in İmralı. Who are the members of this delegation? Why do they hold such a meeting? Are there such meetings in reality? We have no knowledge of this. We want an explanation," said Kışanak.
F-16s hit militants as Herons detect their activity
As the Turkish military continues its aerial strikes on the militant PKK, Heron unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are used to detect militant activity, detected a group of militants on Friday night who were attempting to infiltrate Turkey. Carrying heavy weapons with mules, seven PKK militants gathered in a shack with nine other militants as their activity was being recorded minute by minute by UAVs.
Acting on intelligence provided by UAVs, F-16 warplanes attacked the coordinates as provided, killing 13 PKK militants. The warplanes opened fire on the areas where the three PKK militants might have taken shelter.
The UAVs, which Turkey has been using for three years, have proven highly effective in detecting the whereabouts of terrorists and in sending images and coordinates to the military to aid the units on the ground. Yet, the Turkish military has come under severe criticism for failing to benefit from UAVs in preventing militant attacks, which claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers over the past years.
It turned out that UAV which detected the militant activity on Friday night used the Aselsan-made Airborne Thermal Imaging Systems named "Aselflir." The imaging system was mounted on 10 UAVs purchased from Israel.
There are currently 10 Heron UAVs in Turkey. Heron can monitor six different targets at the same time and collect intelligence for military operations. Turkey paid Israel $183 million for the purchase of 10 Herons.
Cihan news agency
Last Mod: 21 Ağustos 2011, 17:56