A brutal attack targeting a military outpost in Hakkari’s Dağlıca area on June 19 -- which killed eight Turkish soldiers -- led to questions regarding the motives behind the attack, as it came shortly after one of the senior commanders of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Murat Karayılan, had conveyed “peaceful messages” when speaking to a Turkish journalist earlier in the same month.
Indeed, the issue is not as complicated as it may seem for those who know the terrorist group well. An ex-PKK member who spent several years close to Karayılan told the Aksiyon weekly -- on condition of anonymity -- that the latest attack on security forces was an open indication of a covert “fight for leadership” within the terrorist organization. “The latest attacks did not sabotage the path to peace [between Turkish security forces and the PKK]. Indeed, there was not a path to peace or resolution. There is a fight for leadership within the PKK. The main question is who will be the new PKK leader,” he said, adding that the fight will incite “new terrorist attacks” in Turkey.
According to the ex-PKK member, Karayılan sees attacks on Turkish security forces as an opportunity to make his “rivals” recognize his leadership of the terrorist group. Karayılan reportedly knows about plans for the attacks, but he does not interfere to prevent or block them. On the contrary, he covertly supports the attacks, but at the same time pretends that he has no knowledge about the plans in order to give others a message that he is the “good man” in the PKK. In this way, Karayılan wants to become an interlocutor in possible talks between the Turkish state and the PKK on resolution of the Kurdish question. Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed head of the terrorist PKK, is a “symbolic leader” of the group, rather than the real leader, according to the former member of the PKK.
The Dağlıca attack came at a time of new efforts in Turkey to address the grievances of the Kurdish minority in a bid to end clashes between Turkish security forces and the terrorist PKK, which have scarred the eastern and southeastern regions of Turkey for three decades. Earlier this month, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) combined forces to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question, which has existed since the early years of the foundation of the Turkish Republic. The attack also coincided with remarks made by independent pro-Kurdish deputy Leyla Zana, in which she said she believes Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will solve the Kurdish issue. The deputy received much criticism from the PKK and several other pro-Kurdish politicians for her remarks.
The Kurdish question turned violent after the PKK took up arms in 1984, and more than 40,000 people, both civilians and security forces, have been killed in clashes to date.
For some observers, however, the Dağlıca attack suggested that Karayılan was losing his control over the PKK. After the attack, rumors circulated that the order for the attack came from Fehman Hüseyin, another senior PKK commander, who uses the codename “Bahoz Erdal.” According to the rumors, Hüseyin hoped to deal a blow to Karayılan’s control over the terrorist group by foiling his plans to become an interlocutor in possible talks between Turkey and the PKK. Hüseyin reportedly ordered his right-hand man, Reşit Dostum, to organize the Dağlıca attack, and the attack was carried out by a group of around 200 terrorists who reportedly infiltrated Turkey from northern Iraq.
Bizarre partnership behind Dağlıca attack
Many say all senior commanders of the terrorist PKK had knowledge of plans to stage the deadly attack in Dağlıca. Furthermore, the attack was allegedly no source of surprise for the General Staff, as the chain of command of the Turkish military had intelligence about PKK plans to attack the outpost in Dağlıca. Shortly after the attack, rumors emerged that intelligence sources had warned the General Staff around two weeks beforehand that the terrorist group might be planning to stage an attack in southeastern Turkey.
Another ex-PKK member, who used the codename “Bay X” (Mr. X) when speaking to Aksiyon about the Dağlıca attack, claimed that Iranian spies played a significant role in the staging of the attack. “New attacks will come. Attacks on security forces, violent protests in city centers and other killings will come. The Dağlıca attack was aimed at declaring Bahoz’s [Fehman Hüseyin] leadership of the PKK. There is mounting expectation for Bahoz to be elected the official PKK leader soon,” he said.
According to Bay X, the international community cooperating with the PKK favors the leadership of Hüseyin, with the exception of Israeli intelligence agency MOSSAD. Bay X said MOSSAD does not want to “sacrifice” Karayılan easily. “Kandil [a mountain range in northern Iraq] is now like a confederation. Ergenekon [a terrorist organization] is also in it, and it sides with Hüseyin,” he added.
Ergenekon is a clandestine criminal network in Turkey whose members are accused of a large number of illegal actions over time, including unsolved murders and coup plotting.
Below is some brief information as to who is who in the PKK:
Abdullah Öcalan: The long-standing leader of the terrorist group. He is now incarcerated in İmralı Prison in the Sea of Marmara. He continues to be influential with some pro-Kurdish politicians and tries to preserve his control over the PKK. Many say he is currently only a “symbolic leader” for the PKK. He is allowed to read books and play games on a computer in his prison room. He does not have a cell phone.
Murat Karayılan: His codename is “Cemal.” He is one of the senior leaders of the PKK. He participated in terrorist activities in southeastern Şanlıurfa for long years but fled to Syria in 1980. He has long pursued a hawkish policy within the PKK, arguing that the Kurdish question in Turkey could only be settled through the use of weapons. However, he has been making “peaceful” declarations calling for the laying down of arms by the terrorist group recently. For this reason, he is harshly criticized by other hawkish figures of the group. He frequently moves to new locations due to alleged assassination plans against him. He is the sole PKK leader to enjoy the support of Israel. The US ranked him number three in a report published on drug barons across the globe.
Fehman Hüseyin: He has the codename “Doctor Bahoz.” He is also dubbed the “killer.” He is of Syrian origin, and graduated from a faculty of medicine. He speaks Arabic and Kurdish. He heads PKK battalions in the Kandil Mountains. He is said to be the leading figure of the terrorist group. He is supported by the intelligence agencies of Iran, Russia, Syria and China. He declared himself the new PKK leader after the Dağlca attack.
Cemil Bayık: Another senior commander of the PKK, Bayık is often referred to as the “number two man” of the terrorist group. His codename is “Cuma.” He was among the 18 figures who established the PKK in the 1970s. He left Turkey and took shelter in PKK camps in Syria, Lebanon and northern Iraq after the 1980 coup in Turkey. He is in a power struggle against Karayılan and does not recognize Karayılan’s leadership. He has been said to support Hüseyin recently.