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February 17, 2013, Sunday

Would the PKK suicide attack again?

An interesting court trail against a Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) member continues in Germany. As part of the trail a German police chief, Jürgen Becker, who deals with the PKK terror division from the German Federal Criminal Unit, gave a testimony before the court. He claimed that the Belgium police obtained a letter from Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) executive committee member Zubeyir Aydar's computer addressed to People's Defense Forces (HPG) defense committee -- the PKK's military wing -- that suggested staging suicide-bomb attacks in Turkey.

Aydar denied the claim, but a typical response from PKK members is to deny any information when they think the information will not serve the interests of the PKK. He told the German police chief that “the PKK have never had a suicide concept or strategy,” which indicates how bold Mr. Aydar is when he is lying. Even the PKK itself did not deny the fact that it used suicide attacks as a strategy during the 1990s and in 2010.

What makes the German police chief's claim interesting is another relevant piece of information. Mr. Aydar claims that the Belgium police seized his computers and files back in 2010 and that they did not have such information. However, the PKK indeed staged a suicide attack back in 2010 that would be related to Aydar's request to the HPG executive committee.

Back in October 31, 2010, a day after the PKK declared a ceasefire, PKK member Vedat Acar staged a suicide attack in İstanbul's heart, Taksim Square, wounding more than 30 civilians and police officers. The timing of the attack was particularly interesting because during that period Turkish officials and PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan were in contact to negotiate a possible peace. As an outcome, the PKK declared a ceasefire but at the same time a PKK member staged the attack.

During the week after the attack, PKK leaders came out in the media denying any involvement. However, soon after the attack it was revealed that the suicide bomber, Vedat Acar, joined the PKK in 2004 and was trained in the PKK over two years. When he got sick he was chosen to be the suicide bomber.

Another interesting piece of information about the attack was its timing. Since 1999 the PKK hadn't staged any suicide attacks, but as soon as the negotiations started the suicide attack took place. Many PKK experts at this time had difficulty explaining why such an attack took place at this particular time.

Now with the information revealed by the German police chief, the picture about the 2010 suicide attack gets clearer: The PKK uses violence as a tool to gain more while they are negotiating with the government. This is a typical terror strategy that we have seen used by the ETA in Spain and the Irish Republican Army. When the PKK and the state sat down to negotiate, Aydar was part of this process, and then the PKK, at Aydar's request, staged a suicide attack in the heart of İstanbul to demonstrate how they would destroy stability in Turkey.

It makes more sense for the PKK strategy to stage such an attack as negotiations progress. Therefore, it is logical for Aydar to write a letter to the HPG executive committee to request such an attack because such attacks make the PKK's hand stronger. Otherwise, it is meaningless that they staged such an attack back in 2010.  Thus, I would argue that the suicide attack back in 2010 confirms Becker's claim.

One could argue why Aydar would have needed to write a letter to HPG, instead of making a phone call to give his order. There are two reasons for him to write a letter. First, a phone conversation is less safe for PKK leaders or any other terror leaders to communicate because police and intelligence units constantly monitor such conversations. Thus, like many other terror organizations, the PKK uses the Internet as a safer communication tool.

Second, Aydar is a member of the KCK committee. Therefore he cannot give orders to the HPG. He could only request such attacks for strategic reasons. With the consultation of the KCK leadership, it is up to the HPG executive committee to accept or deny such requests. Thus, it is very likely that Aydar wrote a letter to request such an attack.

The question now is the following: As the PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan and Turkey enter into a new negotiation process, will the PKK stage a suicide-bomb attack or large scale terror attack like the one in 2010? I would not omit such a possibility as part of the negotiation strategy because the PKK needs to show its capacity to destroy stability.

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