The US State Department has said in its annual report on worldwide terrorism that Turkey was the European country that saw the highest increase in attacks by terrorist groups, mainly by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), in 2011.
The State Department released its “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011” on Tuesday, providing an assessment of trends and events in international terrorism and reviewing counterterrorism efforts worldwide in 2011.
The report said attacks in Europe and Eurasia fell 20 percent from 703 attacks in 2010 to 561 in 2011, while the greatest decline occurred in Russia, where terrorist attacks were down from 396 in 2010 to 238 in 2011.
“In contrast, Turkey experienced a spike in terrorist attacks, rising from 40 in 2010 to 91 in 2011,” the report said, adding that together, Russia and Turkey suffered almost 70 percent of all 2011 terrorism-related deaths in Europe and Eurasia.
In the report the PKK was cited as being among the most active of secular, political and anarchist groups in 2011 around the world with 48 attacks carried out in Turkey both against security forces and civilians.
The report also included detailed information about the PKK and other terrorists groups active in Turkey such as the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). Stating that the PKK was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US in 1997, the report said the primary targets of the organization have been Turkish government security forces, local Turkish officials and villagers who oppose the organization in Turkey.
“In 2006, 2007, and 2008, PKK violence killed or injured hundreds of Turks. The PKK remained active in 2011, with approximately 61 credited attacks. At least 88 people were killed in the attacks and 216 wounded,” the report said.
Furthermore, according to the report, although the majority of attacks took place in Turkey, suspected PKK members have carried out multiple attacks on the offices of a Turkish daily in Paris, France, referring to PKK attacks on the offices of the Zaman daily last year.
The report added that the PKK has approximately 4,000 to 5,000 members, 3,000 to 3,500 of whom are located in northern Iraq, where the terrorist organization has bases. As for external financial backers, the report said that in the past the PKK had found safe haven and modest aid from Syria, Iraq and Iran. Since 1999, Iran has also cooperated in a limited fashion with Turkey against the PKK. “The PKK receives substantial financial support from the large Kurdish diaspora in Europe and from criminal activity there,” the report said.
The report also mentions the DHKP /C, which was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US in 1997. Defining the group as espousing a Marxist-Leninist ideology vehemently opposed to the United States, NATO and Turkish establishments, the report said the group has primarily targeted current and retired Turkish security and military officials, including attacks against foreign missions in Turkey from 1990 onwards.
However, the report said operations and arrests against the group have weakened its capabilities. “The DHKP/C was dealt a major ideological blow when Dursun Karatas, leader of the group, died in August 2008 in the Netherlands. After the loss of their leader, the DHKP/C reorganized in 2009 and was reportedly competing with the Kurdistan Workers Party for influence in both Turkey and with the Turkish diaspora in Europe,” the report added.
Government measures against terrorism
The US State Department's report also mentioned the Turkish government's efforts to counter radicalization and violent extremism. Among the government's moves in this vein, according to the report, was the government's determination to go ahead with its “democratic initiative” launched in 2009 to solve the country's Kurdish issue through peaceful methods.
“Concrete steps within the scope of the initiative were clearly devised to reduce the PKK's support, by, for example, liberalizing laws governing the use of the Kurdish language in broadcasting, education, and state buildings; reducing the number of instances where counterterrorism laws are applied to non-violent crimes; and providing legal incentives to bring members of the PKK who have not engaged in violence back into civil society,” the report said.
The report also cited two government programs that aim to address violent extremism. “The first, administered by the national police, is a broad-based outreach program to affected communities, similar to anti-gang activities in the United States. Police worked to reach vulnerable populations before terrorists did, to alter the prevailing group dynamics, and prevent recruitment,” he said.
Noting that police utilized social science research to undertake social projects, activities with parents and inservice training for officers and teachers, the report added that the programs were prepared by trainers, psychologists, coaches and religious leaders to intervene to undermine radical messages and prevent recruitment.
The second program mentioned was one administered by the Directorate of Religious Affairs, which the report said promoted a mainstream interpretation of Islam and worked to undercut messages of violent religious extremists.