Turkey has arrested upwards of 1,000 more suspects linked to the Kurdish PKK than to the Islamic State (ISIS) or Al Qaeda since the July bombing of a meeting of Kurdish socialist youth in Suruç, despite declaring war on ISIS following that incident.
More than 1,300 people have been arrested for allegedly having ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a U.S.-designated terrorist group of Marxist ideology. In contrast, Turkish authorities report that they have arrested 276 people for having suspected ties to ISIS or Al Qaeda, rival jihadist groups.
Turkish Justice Minister Kenan İpek released this numbers today, reports Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. “With effective work having been carried out since July 22 after the Suruç massacre up to today, 1,308 people who are members of the PKK, the KCK [the Kurdish Communities Union, the PKK’s umbrella group], the YGH [the Patriotic Youth Movement] and the YDG-H [the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement, the youth wing of the PKK] have been arrested,” he said.
Turkey has made a total of 1,673 terrorism-related arrests since the bombing of Suruç. The remaining suspects are believed to be affiliated with the DHKP-C, a radical Marxist terrorist organization responsible for the execution of a high-ranking prosecutor in April.
The Suruç bombing targeted a group of young Kurdish leftists planning to travel to Kobani, a Kurdish town in Syria recently liberated of its ISIS presence, to help affected civilians. Despite targeting leftist Kurds, the Turkish government used the occasion to begin airstrikes in Syria and Iraq against the PKK as well as ISIS. Turkish officials said at the time they believed ISIS to be responsible.
Turkish airstrikes in the region killed hundreds of PKK members in the weeks following the Suruç attack, including the head of the PKK’s women’s militia and 30 female soldiers. The attacks led the acting head of the PKK, Cemil Bayik, to accuse Turkey of supporting ISIS by bombing their sworn enemy. “Erdogan is behind IS massacres. His aim is to stop the Kurdish advance against them, thus advancing his aim of Turkishness in Turkey,” Bayik then said.
The Suruç bombing has now been largely overshadowed by twin suicide bombings in Ankara, the nation’s capital, targeting a peace rally by leftist Kurdish youth. Like the Suruç bombing, the Islamic State immediately rose to the top of the list of suspects, and the two men identified as the suicide bombers– Yunus Emre Alagoz and Omer Deniz Dundar– both had ties to ISIS.
Alagoz was identified as the brother of Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz, the suicide bomber responsible for the Suruç attack. The brothers were well-known for running an “Islam Tea House” the functioned as an ISIS member HQ for local jihadis.
Following these revelations, Turkey arrested two PKK affiliates.
The two men arrested were allegedly tied to a Twitter account named @MrBereday, which allegedly predicted the Ankara attacks and warned media that the attack was a strictly ISIS, and not PKK, affair.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview following these arrests that he believed ISIS and PKK members met with representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to plan the Ankara bombing. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan followed that statement with a declaration the same week that, “for Turkey, there’s no difference between the PKK … or Daesh,” using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
The PKK and ISIS are sworn enemies, as are ISIS and the Assad regime. Kurdish fighters in Syria have warned that toppling Assad would lead to “disaster,” but they are not allies. While the PKK was once allied with Hafiz al-Assad, the current Syrian head of state’s father, Kurdish leaders in Syria have been working with the Free Syrian Army, who oppose Assad, in Syria, as a means to fight the Islamic State.