Workers' Party of Kurdistan (PKK)
Targets, tactics and methodology
Personnel and recruitment
Area of operation
Sources of weapons
Group Structure and Logistics
Overview of campaign
Chronology of major events
Key Facts TOP
Group name: Workers' Party of Kurdistan (Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan: PKK). Renamed the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (Kongra Azadî û Demokrasiya Kurdistan: KADEK) in 2002 and again renamed the Kurdistan People's Congress (Kongra Gelê Kurdistan: KONGRA-GEL) in 2003. All three names are on the EU's list of terrorist groups and the US Department of State's list of designated terrorist groups. In February 2005, the group was restructured and resumed calling itself the PKK. KONGRA-GEL is now used to describe the organisation's decision-making assembly, while its armed wing is called the People's Defence Force (Hezen Parastina Gel: HPG).
Level of threat: The PKK is not as dangerous as it was in the early 1990s and its ability to carry out large-scale attacks in Turkey has greatly diminished. However, it retains the ability to conduct hit-and-run attacks on targets in southeast Turkey, where the conflict has claimed approximately 850-950 lives since June 2004. As part of its two front strategy, the PKK also conducts an urban bombing campaign in western Turkey, primarily targeting the tourism industry. The bombing campaign has claimed approximately 22 lives since June 2004, including those of seven foreigners.
Date of founding: 1974. Named PKK in 1978. First armed attack August 1984.
Group type: National Separatist.
Aims and objectives: The original primary objective of the PKK was to promote a communist revolution in Turkey. The group's aims and objectives have evolved with the changing political climate. They have ranged from the separation of Kurdistan from Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and the creation of a Kurdish federation in the Middle East, to liberating the Kurdish-dominated region of Turkey and establishing a civil authority. In February 2005, the organisation redefined its theoretical objectives and announced that it was fighting to establish the Kurdish Democratic Federation (Koma Komalen Kurdistan: KKK), a supra-national pyramidical structure of representative committees and assemblies culminating in the KONGRA-GEL. In practice, the PKK's immediate objectives are greater cultural and political rights for Turkey's Kurdish minority, including the amendment of the Turkish constitution to include an explicit recognition of a Kurdish identity, a comprehensive amnesty for PKK militants, including allowing the organisation's leadership to participate in political activities in Turkey, and an easing of the conditions of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan leading eventually to his release.
Leaders: Most PKK members look to Abdullah Öcalan as their president, despite his having been confined alone on the prison island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara since 1999. Ocalan is currently honorary president of the PKK and remains responsible for overall strategy, communicating with the organisation through his lawyers. But the restrictions imposed by his incarceration mean that in practice the PKK is run by Murat Karayilan, a veteran field commander and the current president of the KKK Executive Committee.
Threat Assessment TOP
The PKK is not as powerful as it was in the early 1990s when it was able to launch major military operations and controlled large swathes of southeastern Turkey after dark. The capture and imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan in February 1999 came at a time when the Turkish security forces had already gained the upper hand on the battlefield through the forced evacuation of villages to deprive the PKK of logistical support from the local population, aggressive patrolling and the use of Cobra helicopters for hot pursuit. In August 1999, Ocalan announced an indefinite unilateral ceasefire and ordered all PKK units inside Turkey to leave the country prior to the organisation pursuing its goals by political rather than military means. In May 2004, he ordered the PKK to resume its armed campaign starting from 1 June 2004.
Since June 2004, the PKK has pursued a two-front strategy: a rural insurgency in southeast Turkey combined with an urban bombing campaign in the west of the country, mostly targeting Istanbul and tourist resorts along Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean coast. An estimated 22 civilians have been killed (seven of them foreigners) and injured several hundred more. Precise figures are difficult to determine as, in order to try to minimise the damage to one of the country's main sources of foreign currency, the Turkish authorities have frequently officially attributed explosions caused by bombs to accidents, typically faulty gas canisters, although members of the security forces engaged in investigating the explosions have had little hesitation in privately confirming that they were caused by bombs.
There were two waves of successful bombings during summer 2006, the first in June and the second in August. Most seriously, on 25 June 2006 four people were killed (three of them foreign tourists), and 25 injured after a bomb hidden in a rubbish bin exploded at an open-air restaurant in Manavgat. In late August, six bombings in three days (one in Istanbul and five along the Mediterranean coast) killed three civilians and injured over 50. There were also more than 10 other explosions during August which caused mostly minor injuries. For propaganda purposes, responsibility for the bombing campaign has been claimed by an organisation calling itself the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (Tayrbazen Azadiya Kurdistan: TAK). In reality, TAK is comprised of PKK militants reporting to Murat Karayilan.
Most of the bombs used by the PKK/TAK in western Turkey are relatively small, operate on time-fuses and carried to the target by a militant. During its 1984-1999 campaign, the PKK occasionally used suicide bombers, almost all of them female, to position explosives close to Turkish military units. In July 2005, Turkish police arrested a woman alleged to be a PKK militant planning a suicide bombing of a tourist area. However, there have to date been no successful suicide bombings by the PKK since its resumption of violence in June 2004.
The PKK's abandonment of its ceasefire was accompanied by, and has contributed to, a rise in Turkish nationalism. Unlike in the 1990s, each death of a member of the Turkish security forces is extensively covered in the Turkish media. The riots of March 2006 included clashes between PKK supporters and Turkish ultranationalists on the streets of Istanbul, which is home to an estimated three million Kurds, mostly poor migrants from the countryside. In the medium-term, the greatest danger posed by the PKK's rural insurgency is that it will fuel nationalist sentiments and provoke ethnic clashes on a larger scale. In early September 2006 there were clashes between mobs of Kurdish migrants and Turkish ultranationalists in Istanbul and in the central Anatolian city of Konya.
In the absence of a state sponsor, the PKK appears unlikely to be able to increase its military capabilities either to the levels of the early 1990s or to the point where it poses a military threat to the Turkish state. Nevertheless, it has the capacity to continue to inflict casualties. No reliable figures are available, but since resuming its armed campaign in June 2004 the PKK is believed to have killed 200-250 members of the Turkish security forces for the loss of 650-700 of its own members.
Targets, tactics and methodology TOP
The current absence of foreign state support and the restrictions on funding operations in Europe have combined to limit the PKK's access to training, weapons and logistics. As a result, since resuming its violent campaign in June 2004 the PKK has mostly concentrated on long-range harassing fire, ambushes and mines placed on roads and railways. Its primary targets in southeast Turkey have been the Turkish security forces and state institutions and officials. However, unlike the 1990s, it has made no attempt to control territory, even after dark and is unable to confront the Turkish military on the battlefield.
The main objective of its rural insurgency is not military victory but propaganda and attrition in order to preserve its position as the primary focus of Kurdish nationalism and force the Turkish state to grant political concessions. These include the lifting of restrictions on the expression of a political and cultural Kurdish identity, a general amnesty on PKK militants and an easing of Ocalan's isolation prior to his eventual release and participation in the political process. There currently appears little prospect of the Turkish state agreeing to any of these concessions.
The PKK's bombing campaign in western Turkey is primarily designed to inflict economic damage and deter foreign tourists rather than cause mass casualties. To date, the attacks have been concentrated in Istanbul and the tourist resorts along Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. However, news of many of the attacks, particularly those which have not caused any casualties, has been suppressed by the Turkish authorities for fear of harming the local tourism industry. For example, a number of bombings causing only material damage in Antalya in August 2004 were officially attributed to gas leakages.
Personnel and recruitment TOP
The PKK is currently believed to have a total of 4,500-5,000 militants under arms inside Turkey and in camps in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq. The number of militants inside Turkey varies according to operational circumstances and the season, falling to less than 1,000 during the winter and rising to 2,500-3,000 during the period April to September, which is the main campaigning season.
The PKK has a large support base inside Turkey and amongst the Kurdish diaspora in Europe, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. It also has a presence, mostly used for propaganda and fund-raising activities, in North America and throughout Europe.
Since June 2004, there has been a marked increase in public sympathy for the PKK amongst Turkey's Kurds. This is partly attributable to popular frustration at the Turkish government's failure either to grant further cultural and political rights or to take measures to develop what remains the most impoverished region of the country. Some of the growth in support for the PKK is also attributable to reactions to the repressive measures taken by the security forces since June 2004. Another important factor is family loyalty. In Kurdish areas families are large and closely-knit. Consequently, almost every Kurd in southeast Turkey has a relative who has joined the PKK. Even if they may not actively support the PKK, few Kurds will oppose it once a family member has joined the organisation, particularly if he or she is subsequently killed. As a result, each death of a PKK militant has the potential to create dozens of PKK sympathisers. In addition to those who are genuinely sympathetic to the PKK, the organisation has frequently resorted to violence and intimidation to ensure the cooperation of many others, particularly amongst the Kurdish population in Turkey and Europe.
Despite a high casualty rate amongst its fighting units and the ruthless manner in which it deals with dissent or suspected disloyalty, the PKK has not experienced any difficulty in sourcing fresh recruits. Most continue to be drawn from the rural and urban poor in southeast Turkey, although the organisation has also recruited extensively from the younger generations of Kurdish migrants to the cities in western Turkey. For its rural insurgency, the PKK also recruits from the Kurdish population in Syria and Iran and from the Kurdish diaspora in Europe. However, the latter are often ill-suited to the demanding physical conditions in the mountains of southeastern Turkey. For its bombing campaign in western Turkey, the PKK only uses militants who have been born and raised in Turkey.
The PKK recruits males and females and has deployed both all-female and mixed fighting units. When it has used suicide bombers the organisation has tended to prefer females. This is partly because male members of the Turkish security forces are usually reluctant to search a woman (there are relatively few female members of the Turkish security forces) and a woman's ability to strap a large quantity of explosives to her body and pretend that she is pregnant. Police interrogations of captured would-be PKK female suicide bombers strongly suggest that many have been coerced, often as an alternative to execution for an alleged disciplinary offence.
Kurdish protesters wave flags of Abdullah Ocalan in Frankfurt on 22 March 2003. About 15,000 Kurds marched to show their solidarity with their kin in northern Iraq and Turkey. They also called for the freeing of Ocalan. (EMPICS)
Area of operation TOP
The main area of PKK operations is in southeast Turkey, where it conducts a rural insurgency targeting the Turkish security forces and state officials and institutions. It has also carried out assassinations and bombings in most large cities in Turkey and, in summer 2004, 2005 and 2006, conducted bombing campaigns in Istanbul and in tourist areas along Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.
The PKK has also carried out a number of attacks on Turkish targets in Europe, such as diplomatic missions and local offices of Turkish banks. Assassinations of suspected informants, critics of Ocalan inside and outside the PKK and members of potential rival organisations have been conducted in Turkey, northern Iraq and Europe. In recent years, the PKK's policy of eliminating potential rivals has focused on the Patriotic Democratic Party (Partîya Welatparêzê Demokratên: PWD), a non-violent organisation which was established by former members of the PKK who refused to accept Ocalan's order to resume the armed struggle in June 2004. In July 2005, the PKK assassinated Hikmet Fidan, a leading member of the PWD in Turkey. In February 2006, Faysal Dunlayici (better known by his nom de guerre of Kani Yilmaz) was assassinated by the PKK in northern Iraq.
Guerrilla unit of the PKK training in the Kandil Mountains, near the border of Iran. (EMPICS)
Operational preparedness TOP
Operatives communicate through shortwave radios, satellite phones and cell-phones, mostly without the use of scramblers but using code names. The PKK also makes extensive use of computer networks and the Internet for communications between units in the Qandil mountains and to maintain links with its supporters and propaganda outlets in western Europe.
The PKK maintains its own training camps in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq where recruits are given basic military training, including weapons familiarisation and guerrilla warfare tactics.
PKK members also undergo ideological training, indoctrination and political education. For militants recruited from the Kurdish diaspora in Europe this usually takes place in Europe (typically in Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium) before they are sent to northern Iraq for military training. For a time in the late 1990s, the PKK also had an ideological training centre just outside Athens. However, this was closed following Ocalan's capture in 1999. Despite receiving intensive ideological training, militants do not appear to be highly ideologically motivated.
In the past, elements of the Syrian military assisted with the training of PKK militants in camps in Syria and the Beqaa Valley. Turkish intelligence reports claimed that the PKK received training from outside the organisation for the use of more sophisticated weaponry, such as shoulder-launched surface-to-air-missiles (SAMs) which the PKK used to down several Turkish helicopters in the late 1990s. However, there is no evidence that the PKK has used SAMs since the resumption of its armed campaign in June 2004. Currently, virtually all of its military training appears to be led by the organisation's own members.
There has been no indication that the PKK has acquired sophisticated bomb-making expertise. The bomb-making skills and techniques used in both the rural insurgency in southeast Turkey and the urban bombing campaign in the west of the country remain rudimentary. Accidents and premature detonations in PKK/TAK bomb-making factories in western Turkey remain commonplace.
PKK militants receive almost no training in tradecraft or anti-interrogation techniques. The former, combined with high levels of penetration of PKK sympathisers by the Turkish intelligence services, has meant that a large number of attacks planned for western Turkey are intercepted and prevented before they can be realised. Members of the security forces responsible for interrogating captured PKK suspects report that they talk more easily than members of any other militant group in Turkey.
PKK guerrillas train in the Kandil mountains, northern Iraq (EMPICS)
PKK guerrillas are armed with AK-47 assault rifles, land mines, hand grenades and explosives. During the 1984-1999 campaign, their wider arsenal included anti-tank weapons, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft missiles and flamethrowers. However, these have not featured prominently in the current phase of the insurgency. Although the PKK still retains some limited stocks of such weaponry, most of it is believed to have been acquired in the 1990s and to be in a poor state of repair.
PKK operations since June 2004 have demonstrated that the PKK has a large supply of explosives, mostly A4 and C4.
Limiting factors TOP
Ocalan has traditionally demanded total obedience from the PKK membership. Criticism and dissent has been harshly punished, often by the death penalty. Nevertheless, Ocalan's capture and subsequent incarceration on the prison island of Imrali enabled several leading members of the PKK to extend their powerbases within the organisation, albeit within the context of overall obedience to Ocalan.
At the opening of the PKK congress in the Qandil mountains in May 2004, the majority of delegates were opposed to a resumption of the armed struggle, arguing that the organisation was still too weak militarily to confront the Turkish security forces on the battlefield and that a return to violence would seriously damage its credibility, particularly in Europe, at a time when it was trying to have itself removed from EU and US lists of terrorist organisations and portray itself as the internationally acceptable representative of Turkey's Kurds and an essential political interlocutor in any attempt to solve the Kurdish problem.
However, Ocalan had become increasingly frustrated at the Turkish state's continuing refusal to ease the conditions of his isolation on Imrali and was concerned that the emergence of a number of political groupings in southeastern Turkey, many of them established by political figures who had previously been sympathetic to the PKK, was eroding the organisation's claim to be the sole representative of Kurdish nationalism. When two of Ocalan's lawyers arrived in the Qandil mountains with an order for the congress to pass a resolution advocating a resumption of violence most of the delegates complied. However, a number of leading figures, including veteran field commanders and even Ocalan's younger brother Osman Ocalan, continued to oppose the return to the armed struggle and broke away to form the Patriotic Democratic Party (Partîya Welatparêzê Demokratên: PWD).
Based in northern Iraq, the PWD advocates the pursuit of greater cultural rights for Turkey's Kurds by non-violent means. Initially, many argued that the PWD represented the views of the majority of the PKK's members and supporters and that its formation had left only a rump of marginalised hardliners in the Qandil mountains. There was also speculation that the PWD and other Kurdish political groupings emerging inside Turkey would form an alliance. However, since June 2004 it has been the PWD which has become marginalised. It remains banned by the Turkish authorities and has failed to attract a substantial public following inside Turkey. It has also been ruthlessly persecuted by the PKK. Murat Karayilan, the president of the KKK executive committee, has reportedly issued orders for the assassination of all of the PWD leadership. In July 2005, the PKK shot Hikmet Fidan, a leading member of the PWD in Turkey. In February 2006, Faysal Dunlayici (better known by his nom de guerre of Kani Yilmaz) was assassinated by the PKK in northern Iraq. Osman Ocalan recently announced that he was withdrawing from political activity.
None of the various Kurdish political groupings that were established in 2004 and 2005 have succeeded in establishing an extensive powerbase in Turkey. This is partly because they have all come under pressure from both the Turkish state and the PKK and partly because of a lack of a coherent vision, personal rivalries and limited funding and organisational experience. On the contrary, the return to violence strengthened internal cohesion within the PKK and enabled Murat Karayilan to increase his influence inside the organisation.
The PKK has traditionally attacked any organisation it perceives to be a potential rival to its claim to be the sole representative of Kurdish nationalism. During the early 1990s it fought Turkish Hizbullah, a radical Islamist group primarily comprised of Turkish Kurds. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Turkish Hizbullah built up an increasingly powerful urban cell network in southeast Turkey at a time when the PKK was attempting to open a urban front in parallel to its rural insurgency. Tensions between the two groups exploded into full-scale war after the PKK massacred 11 members of Turkish Hizbullah in a mosque in the village of Yolac in the Turkish southeastern province of Diyarbakir in June 1992. Over the next three years an estimated 600 militants were killed in clashes between the two groups, with PKK losses outnumbering those of Turkish Hizbullah by a ratio of around three to one.
The PKK often claimed that the Turkish Hizbullah was created and controlled by the Turkish state. While this is inaccurate, there is considerable evidence that for several years Turkish Hizbullah was able to conduct a campaign of assassination of suspected PKK members and sympathisers without fear of judicial sanction. There is also evidence of a degree of cooperation between individual members of the security forces and local Turkish Hizbullah militants, particularly in the sharing of intelligence related to the identification of Kurds with PKK sympathies. The fighting between Turkish Hizbullah and the PKK ceased in 1995. Claims that the two organisations signed a peace agreement have subsequently been vigorously rejected by PKK commanders active in the region at that time. Nonetheless, it seems that there was at least a tacit understanding that the PKK would abandon its attempts to launch an urban front in southeast Turkey and concentrate on its rural insurgency.
Turkish Hizbullah's leader Huseyin Velioglu was killed in firefight with Turkish police in Istanbul in January 2000 after he had attempted to expand the organisation's field of operations into western Turkey. Data found in the safe house used by Velioglu enabled the Turkish security forces to overrun the organisation's cell network. Although the cell network has now been reconstituted, Turkish Hizbullah's new leadership (based in Germany) has to date refrained from a return to violence and is not currently viewed by the PKK as a potential threat.
The PKK has consistently attempted to intimidate and influence political parties active in southeast Turkey, particularly those which are predominantly composed of Kurds. This strategy, combined with the Turkish state's refusal to provide protection to Kurdish politicians on the grounds that they are potential separatists, has made it very difficult for any Kurdish politician to operate independently of the PKK and very dangerous for any Kurdish politician to criticise the organisation publicly. Even if some of their leaders are privately opposed to the PKK, all predominantly Kurdish political parties have been heavily infiltrated by the organisation and, at a grassroots level, serve as platforms for PKK propaganda and as conduits for volunteers wishing to join the organisation.
External Assistance TOP
During the 1980s and 1990s the PKK had three main sources of funds:
Income from the sales of publications and other fund-raising activities and donations, from Kurds in Turkey and the Kurdish diaspora in Europe
Revenue from criminal activity, including income from activities conducted by the organisation itself (such as robberies, extortion, human and narcotics trafficking) and tithes levied on criminal activities by the Kurdish underworld (particularly the lucrative heroin trade into Europe, a substantial proportion of which is controlled by the Kurdish mafia)
Funding from sympathetic governments.
In the mid-1990s, elements connected with the Turkish state conducted a series of assassinations of leading members of the Kurdish underworld believed to be donating money to the PKK, a strategy publicly defended by then-prime minister Tansu Ciller. However, the authorities have subsequently adopted a more low-key approach, privately warning major donors to the organisation rather than using violence or prosecuting them.
The withdrawal of virtually all of the PKK's foreign governmental sponsors in the late 1990s (most critically Syria) and a crackdown by law enforcement agencies on the organisation's fundraising activities in Europe have severely restricted the PKK's financial resources.
Nevertheless, the PKK is still able to raise funds in Europe, albeit at a reduced level compared with the 1990s. It also continues to derive income from its own criminal activities and from tithes levied on the activities of the Kurdish underworld. No reliable figures are available but these funds appear sufficient for the organisation to continue to finance its activities at their current level but not enough to be able to escalate the conflict through the equipment of a larger number of militants or the procurement of a large arsenal of sophisticated weaponry.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, the PKK established contacts with a number of other militant groups, particularly those leftist and nationalist organisations which also had a presence in Lebanon at the time. There is evidence to suggest that these contacts sometimes included the exchange of expertise and information related to sources of weaponry, documentation and the clandestine transportation of arms and militants to Lebanon or Syria and the conflict zone in Turkey. However, there appears to have been little operational cooperation.
PKK camps in the Beqaa were located next to a training camp run by the Turkish leftist group Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Partisi/Cephesi: DHKP/C). In 1996, the PKK signed a protocol with the DHKP/C aimed at building a united revolutionary front against the government in Ankara, combining the DHKP/C's urban cell network and PKK's strength in rural areas. However, the two organisations did not stage any joint operations and the sharing of intelligence was hampered by mutual suspicions of penetration of the both organisations by the Turkish intelligence services. The alliance quickly broke down and was finally formally dissolved in 1998 with the DHKP/C accusing the PKK of being too focused on particularist nationalism rather than transnational revolution.
The PKK currently has close links with the Kurdistan Free Life Party (Partiya Jiyana Azada Kurdistanê: PJAK), a militant group of Iranian Kurds which also has training camps in northern Iraq.
During the 1990s, Iran often tolerated the presence of PKK units in the mountains along its border with Turkey, allowing militants to move freely within the country and providing healthcare facilities for militants wounded in clashes with the Turkish security forces. However, there is no evidence to suggest that it provided the PKK with substantial military, logistical or financial support. The rise of Kurdish separatist sentiment within Iran, fears that the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 would eventually lead to the emergence of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq and a desire to cultivate Turkey to reduce Tehran's international isolation, combined to produce a change in Iranian policy towards the PKK. During a visit by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to Tehran in July 2004, Iran designated the PKK as a terrorist organisation.
Iran has subsequently been more aggressive than any of Turkey's other neighbours in cracking down on PKK activity in its territory, sharing intelligence on the PKK and arresting and extraditing to Turkey more than 50 suspected PKK militants. In April 2006, the Iranian army launched a military operation against PJAK and PKK units in the mountains of southwest Iran. The operation followed discussions between Turkish and Iranian security officials and coincided with the deployment of 150,000 extra Turkish troops into southeast Turkey. In late August 2006, both Turkey and Iran launched apparently coordinated artillery and mortar attacks on camps belonging to the PKK and PJAK respectively.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the PKK formed temporary alliances with both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (Partiya Demokrat a Kurdistanê: KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Yakêtî Nîstimanî Kurdistan: PUK), although never at the same time. However, in the mid-1990s, the KDP began cooperating with the Turkish state, providing intelligence on PKK movements in northern Iraq and providing logistical and military support when the Turkish security forces launched cross-border operations against PKK camps in northern Iraq. In return, Turkey provided the KDP with financial support and some weaponry. Turkey also frequently donated weaponry and supplies captured from the PKK to KDP forces, which it then used in its long-running feud with the PUK.
The PKK camps in the Qandil mountains are currently located in PUK controlled territory. There are frequent contacts between PUK officials and members of the PKK. However, the leadership of both the KDP and the PUK now see the PKK as a potential challenge to their authority in northern Iraq and as a potential pretext for a cross-border incursion by the Turkish military. Even so, strong levels of popular sympathy for the PKK among Iraqi Kurds and the limited military capabilities of the KDP and PUK mitigate against a concerted attempt to drive the PKK out of northern Iraq.
Turkish security sources claim that Iraqi Kurdish officials sympathetic to the PKK provide the organisation with intelligence on the movements of Turkish troops and suspected intelligence operatives. They hold Iraqi Kurds responsible for providing the intelligence which enabled assailants, widely believed to be members of the PKK, to ambush a convoy of vehicles travelling through northern Iraq in December 2004. The vehicles were carrying the members of what was to be the security detail for the newly reopened Turkish embassy in Baghdad. Five serving members of the Turkish security forces were killed in the ambush.
Under pressure from both Turkey and the US, in summer 2006 the Iraqi authorities outlawed the Democratic Solution Party of Kurdistan (Partiya Careseriya Demokratika Kurdistan: PCDK), which had been established by the PKK in April 2002 to conduct political activities in Iraq. The PCDK even participated in the January 2005 elections for the regional assembly in northern Iraq, winning 0.52 per cent of the total vote. The PCDK's representative office in Baghdad was closed down by the central government in June 2006. However, the authorities in northern Iraq were initially reluctant to move against the party's offices in the territory under their control for fear of triggering a confrontation with the PKK. It was not until early September 2006 that the PCDK's last office in northern Iraq, in Sulaimaniyah, was closed down and the party's leader, Faik Gulpi, taken into custody.
Sources of weapons TOP
During the 1984-1999 campaign the PKK sourced most of its weapons from the international black market, although there is evidence to suggest that some of its weapons were procured with the active support of countries sympathetic to the organisation, particularly Syria. Elements in the security forces in Greece, Cyprus, Armenia and Russia are also believed to have played a facilitating role, albeit with varying degrees of knowledge and approval of their governments. The regime of Saddam Hussein is thought to have occasionally supplied the PKK with weapons and funding in return for support as Baghdad attempted to play the two Kurdish factions in northern Iraq against each other. There is also evidence to suggest that Syria also sometimes donated weaponry to the PKK, in addition to providing extensive logistical support. However, PKK arms depots seized by Turkish security forces in Turkey and northern Iraq suggested that the majority of the PKK's weapons were old and of poor quality.
Since the withdrawal of Syrian support, the PKK's relative isolation in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq has made it more difficult for the organisation to source weapons from the international market. Since June 2004, most of the PKK's new acquisitions of weapons appear to have been from the local black market in Iraq, particularly from stocks which formerly belonged to Saddam Hussein's army.
Foreign bases TOP
During the 1984-1999 campaign, the PKK had military training bases in the Beqaa Valley, Syria and northern Iraq, with ideological training and indoctrination bases in Greece and western Europe, primarily in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Some PKK units operated out of Iran, although the camps on Iranian territory were mainly used for rest and recuperation rather than for military or ideological training. The PKK also had a presence in the Caususus, Russia, North America and most countries in Europe, where sympathisers conducted propaganda and fundraising activities.
Since 1999, the PKK's only permanent military bases have been in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq. Turkish intelligence reports indicate that there are still PKK personnel in camps in Syria but these camps are no longer directly involved in the conflict and that the small number of PKK members in them are essentially remnants from the 1990s. However, the PKK has maintained a presence in most European countries and continues to conduct ideological training and indoctrination and propaganda activities in areas where there is a large Kurdish population.
PKK camps in the Qandil mountains are located in an area which is effectively beyond the control of the northern Iraqi authorities. The PKK maintains checkpoints on all roads into the area and the camps themselves are scattered through more than 30 villages which are under the organisation's control. In addition to training facilities, the PKK has also built a hospital, two schools, canteens, laundries, administrative buildings and two small hydroelectric dams to supply electricity. The mountainous terrain and the location of the buildings in places which are difficult to target either with artillery or from the air meant that they suffered only minimal damage in an artillery bombardment by the Turkish authorities in late August 2006.
PKK guerrilla unit in the Kandil mountains near the border with Iran. (EMPICS)
Group Structure and Logistics TOP
In February 2005, Ocalan announced a reconstruction of the PKK and the creation of the Kurdish Democratic Federation (Koma Komalen Kurdistan: KKK). The KKK is a supra-national pyramidical structure of representative committees and assemblies culminating in the People's Congress of Kurdistan (Kongra Gelê Kurdistan: KONGRA-GEL), which serves as the legislature. In theory, the KKK includes Kurds throughout the region and exists in parallel to the laws and governmental structures of the different states in which they live, thus obviating the need for Kurdish autonomy or independence. However, no representative committees or assemblies have been formed outside the PKK, either inside Turkey or amongst Kurdish communities in other countries. Even if they were to be formed, it remains unclear how conflicts between the laws and regulations of the KKK and those of the states in which they reside could be resolved.
Fighting units belong to the People's Defence Force (Hezen Parastina Gel: HPG). The HPG is divided into regional commands. Each unit is relatively small, comprising at most 15-20 militants under a unit commander. During its 1984-1999 campaign, the PKK occasionally conducted large-scale operations involving up to 500 militants. However since 2004, almost all operations have been on a single-unit basis. Conditions on the ground in the mountains of southeast Turkey and the difficulty of communications (combined with the relative ease with which radio and cellphone traffic can be intercepted) have meant that unit commanders have been able to exercise considerable operational autonomy.
The militants responsible for the bombing campaign in western Turkey operate in small cells, or even as individuals, under the command of the organisation leadership in the Qandil mountains. These militants are usually trained in northern Iraq and sent overland to their area of operation. Once in place they appear to enjoy considerable operational autonomy and have little contact with other cells, their commanders in the Qandil mountains or PKK members and supporters in the area.
In theory, there are no restrictions on other organisations or groups contributing personnel to the representative committees and assemblies in the KKK, KONGRA-GEL or the HPG. In practice, they are all staffed exclusively by member of the PKK.
Similarly, in theory, power in the KKK flows up through the hierarchy. In practice, it is imposed from the top down. Although Ocalan's only titular position is as honorary president of the PKK, he has retained sole responsibility for the organisation's ideology and for determining its strategic objectives and the methods it uses to try to achieve them.
In practice, overall control of the day-to-day running of the PKK is handled by the KKK executive committee, operating within the parameters set by Ocalan. The KKK executive committee is dominated by members of the HPG. Until relatively recently the influence exerted by members of the committee varied according to the strength of their powerbase within the organisation. However, Murat Karayilan, the president of the executive committee, has now emerged as the dominant figure and the main determinant of PKK policy within the strategic parameters set by Ocalan.
Political/Religious representation TOP
The PKK was founded as a Marxist-Leninist group, espousing worldwide Marxist revolution and standard Maoist tactics (guerrilla warfare, 'people's war'). Its original goal was to establish a left-wing Kurdish state which would serve as a platform for the dissemination of Marxist-Leninist ideology, and the creation of a series of allied Marxist-Leninist states, throughout the Middle East.
In the late 1980s, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the worldwide retreat of Marxist-Leninism resulted in the PKK downplaying, though not officially renouncing, Marxist-Leninism in favour of a stronger focus on Kurdish nationalism. This process was reflected both in the PKK's rhetoric and propaganda and in its use of imagery as Marxist-Leninist symbols were removed from the organisation's insignia. The continuing high levels of Islamic piety amongst the Kurdish population also resulted in the PKK relaxing its emphasis on atheism and beginning to cultivate rather than attack local religious leaders. However, the PKK has stopped short of advocating religion or inculcating Islamic sentiments during the political and ideological training of its militants. Most of the PKK's leadership is comprised of atheists.
The PKK also reflects the continuing strength of tribal culture in southeast Turkey. Ocalan has actively encouraged a cult of personal loyalty to himself which transcends any political theory. PKK militants are taught that Ocalan embodies the Kurdish national cause. Ocalan's capture, imprisonment and isolation on the prson island of Imrali has arguably enhanced the reverence with which he is regarded in the organisation, adding a mystique to his already iconic status. For the mass of PKK militants, sympathisers and supporters, this fusion of personality cult and Kurdish nationalism now provide their primary ideological motivation.
Information campaigns TOP
During the 1980s and early 1990s, the PKK relied primarily on newspapers, magazines, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and predominantly Kurdish political parties to disseminate information and recruit militants. A number of newspapers and magazines with close links to the PKK, which sometimes included opinion pieces written by Ocalan himself under a variety of pseudonyms, were banned by the Turkish courts (only to subsequently reopen under other names). Frustration at the courts' inability to prevent the flow of PKK propaganda led to death squads affiliated with some elements in the security forces conducting a campaign of intimidation, bombing and assassination against journalists, distributors and premises associated with pro-PKK publications.
In recent years, the emphasis of the PKK's propaganda activities has shifted from the print media to television and the Internet; not least because they are more difficult for the authorities to control. PKK sympathisers have established a number of satellite television channels operating out of western Europe and broadcasting to Turkey. The first such channel was MED TV, which operated out of London in the mid-1990s after securing a licence to broadcast cultural programmes. However, following vigorous protests from Turkey at the highly politicised pro-PKK content of much of MED TV's programming, the British authorities refused to renew the channel's licence. MED TV moved to France, where it suffered a similar fate, and eventually to Belgium. Currently the most watched PKK-linked channel is Roj TV, which is based in Denmark and frequently has exclusive interviews with PKK commanders. The Turkish government has been lobbying Denmark to close Roj TV. But to date these efforts have been unsuccessful, not least because of difficulties in proving that Roj TV is controlled by, rather than just sympathetic to, the PKK. The channel has also been careful to avoid any explicit incitement to violence.
Viewing figures for pro-PKK television channels are difficult to assess. However, the beginning of broadcasts by MED TV was followed by a massive growth in the number of satellite dishes appearing on the roofs of even relatively impoverished dwellings across southeast Turkey. The popularity of the pro-PKK channels is probably partly attributable to the dearth of broadcasting in Kurdish. In June 2006 the Turkish authorities removed a limit of 45 minutes a day on broadcasts in Kurdish by terrestrial channels in Turkey. However, bureaucratic obstacles, severe restrictions on content and the limited financial resources of Kurdish broadcasters in Turkey are likely to mean that, even with the lifting of the 45 minute rule, they will continue to find it difficult to compete with channels such as Roj TV.
The PKK currently makes extensive use of the internet as a means of disseminating propaganda. There have been a number of court orders demanding that Turkish Internet service providers block access to specific pro-PKK sites. But these have only had a temporary impact as the PKK has simply circumvented the ban by setting up mirror sites. Similarly, a circular issued by the Turkish Ministry of the Interior making all Internet cafe owners liable for prosecution if any of their customers access a pro-PKK site has proved very difficult to enforce. More effective have been efforts, both by Turkish intelligence agencies and private groups of Turkish nationalists, to hack into pro-PKK sites and disable them. However, such efforts have been opposed by some elements in the Turkish intelligence community who monitor pro-PKK sites to supplement intelligence gathered from their agents in the organisation.
Background Information TOP
Leader biographies TOP
Despite his incarceration on the prison island of Imrali since 1999, Abdullah Öcalan continues to serve as honorary president of the PKK and sets overall strategy for the organisation, communicating with the camps in northern Iraq through his lawyers. The executive committee of the KKK under the presidency of Murat Karayilan is responsible for the day-to-day running of the PKK within the strategic parameters set by Ocalan.
Öcalan was born into a peasant family near the town of Urfa on the Turkish-Syrian border in 1948. Even though he has become the symbol of Kurdish nationalism to PKK supporters, Öcalan is of mixed origin. His mother was an ethnic Turk and Öcalan grew up in a Turcophone environment. He still uses Turkish as his main language and has only a rudimentary command of Kurdish.
Öcalan studied political science at Ankara University, which is where he first became actively involved in left-wing politics. In 1974, a number of Kurdish members of the leftist Ankara Higher Education Association (Ankara Yuksek Ogrenim Dernegi: AYOD) broke away to form their own group known as the National Liberation Army (Ulusal Kurtulus Ordusu: UKO) and elected Öcalan as their leader. On 27 November 1978, Öcalan announced that the UKO had changed its name to the PKK. Initially, the Öcalan concentrated primarily on propaganda activities to try to discredit what he saw as rival leftist and Kurdish groups. Öcalan also used violence and has been implicated in the murder of one of his rivals in 1977.
Öcalan was forced to flee Turkey following the military coup of 1980. He took refuge in the Beqaa Valley where he established a PKK training camp. The PKK launched its insurgency on 15 August 1984 with attacks on the villages on Eruh and Semdinli in southeast Turkey in which two police officers were killed. However, Öcalan has never engaged in combat. Between 1980 and 1998, he divided his time between the Beqaa Valley and Syria. From the mid-1990s onwards, he was based in a villa in Damascus from where he issued orders to PKK units in the field, often communicating directly with commanders by radio.
During the mid-1990s, the Turkish security forces gradually seized the initiative in southeast Turkey. In 1998, with the PKK in retreat on the battlefield, Turkey turned its attention to Syria. In early October 1998, the Turkish military massed 10,000 troops on the border with Syria and threatened to invade unless the Syrian government expelled Öcalan and withdrew its support for the PKK. On 9 October 1998, Öcalan was expelled and took refuge in Russia. The US was able to monitor his movements through his use of a satellite telephone and informed the Turkish authorities of his whereabouts. Turkey applied pressure to the Russian government and Öcalan was expelled from Russia.
After initially trying to take refuge in the Netherlands, Öcalan arrived in Rome on 13 November 1998 and was immediately arrested by the Italian authorities. After two months of legal proceedings, the Italians failed to grant either Öcalan's request for political asylum or Ankara's demand that he be extradited to Turkey. On 16 January 1999, Öcalan left Italy. After a failed attempt to take refuge in Russia he arrived in Athens where contacts within the Greek intelligence services arranged for him to be transported to the Greek embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. However, his movements were tracked by the US, which informed Turkey of his new location. When it learned of Öcalan's whereabouts, on 15 February 1999 the Greek government ordered its ambassador in Kenya to expel Öcalan from the embassy. Öcalan was delivered by Kenyan officials to a team of Turkish special forces sent to Nairobi and brought back to Turkey to face trial, arriving on 16 February 1999.
Film footage shot on the plane back to Turkey and distributed by the Turkish authorities showed a clearly heavily-sedated Öcalan pleading with his captors not to torture him and offering to serve the Turkish state. At his trial, Öcalan faced the death penalty. He defended himself, delivering a humble, rambling and often barely coherent defence of the PKK's campaign. Initially, the image of their leader almost begging for his life had a devastating impact on morale in the PKK. However, many militants later convinced themselves that Öcalan's unimpressive performance was the result of drugs administered by the Turkish authorities, similar to those used to sedate him on the flight from Nairobi to Turkey.
Öcalan was found guilty of multiple charges of insurrection on 29 June 1999 and sentenced to death. The punishment was automatically commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey abolished the death penalty in August 2002. Since 1999, Öcalan has been the sole inmate on the prison island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara. He is kept in isolation and can only communicate with the outside world through visits from relatives and his lawyers. However, he has continued to determine strategy for the PKK from his prison cell, communicating with the organisation through his lawyers, conversations which are both monitored by the Turkish intelligence service and published on the Internet by pro-PKK websites.
Öcalan's isolation has arguably enhanced the reverence with which he is regarded by PKK members, adding a mystique to his already iconic status and endowing him with the image of a living martyr.
PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, February 2002 (EMPICS)
Overview of campaign TOP
Background to the Kurdish issue
The predominantly Kurdish areas of the Ottoman empire enjoyed considerable local autonomy under local tribal chieftains owing nominal loyalty to the sultan in Istanbul. There is no evidence of any Kurdish national consciousness until deep into the 20th century. Nevertheless, the Treaty of Sèvres (the original peace treaty between the Ottoman Empire and the victorious allies at the end of World War One) envisaged the creation of an independent Kurdish state in Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Kurds fought alongside Turks in the 1919-1922 Turkish War of Independence against an invading Greek army, after which the Turks were able to renegotiate improved peace terms in the Treaty of Lausanne.
In the wake of the Turkish War of Independence, Mustafa Kemal, the commander of the Turkish forces, promised the Kurds an equal share in the new state which would be founded to replace the Ottoman Empire. However, he not only reneged on this promise by establishing an explicitly Turkish nation state in 1923 but further offended the often deeply pious Kurds by embedding the principle of secularism in the new state's constitution. Kurdish language and culture were rigorously suppressed and Islamic religious orders, which were particularly influential in Kurdish areas, were banned.
The result was a series of rebellions during the period 1924-1938 in which an emerging Kurdish national consciousness mixed to varying degrees with Islamist sentiments and resentment at the efforts of the central government to impose its authority on the Kurdish tribes and their leaders. All of the rebellions were crushed, often with considerable loss of life and widespread hardship. During the early years of the Cold War, the Turkish state pursued a policy of active neglect towards the predominantly Kurdish provinces of eastern and southeastern Turkey, partly in an attempt to prevent the creation of material and intellectual resources that could be used to fuel separatist sentiments and partly for fear that development, including an efficient transportation infrastructure, would accelerate the advance of any invading Soviet army.
However, the lack of development meant that the population remained culturally isolated, while low levels of education and literacy perpetuated the continued use of the Kurdish language, whose three main dialects all belong to the Indo-European family of languages and are radically different to Turkish, which belongs to the Altaic language group. Underdevelopment also resulted in a higher birthrate than in the more developed west of Turkey. No reliable figures are available but ethnic Kurds are currently estimated to account for 20 per cent of Turkey's total population of 75 million and the share is continuing to rise. A high birthrate has also triggered large-scale migration to the cities of western Turkey. Although Diyarbakir is the largest city in southeast Turkey with a total population of around 1.5 million, there are currently estimated to be at least 3 million ethnic Kurds among the 12-13 million inhabitants of Istanbul, Turkey's largest metropolis.
The first PKK insurgency (1984-1999)
Suppression of Kurdish language and culture intensified after the 1980 military coup. Any reference to the word 'Kurdish' was banned and even speaking the language was outlawed. Officially even Kurds did not exist but were 'mountain Turks' who had temporarily forgotten their true ethnic Turkish origins.
As a result, the PKK initially attracted considerable public support amongst Turkey's Kurds. Although many disagreed with the PKK's leftist and atheistic ideology, the launch of the organisation's insurgency in August 1984 was seen as asserting a Kurdish identity in the face of the denial of such an identity by the Turkish state. At first, the Turkish government underestimated the threat from the PKK. However, as PKK activity intensified, in 1985 the government established a militia known as 'village guards', recruited from the local populace to supplement the state security forces.
During the late 1980s, in addition to staging attacks on the state institutions, officials and the security forces, the PKK also began targeting the families of those who had joined the village guards, carrying out a series of massacres of women and children. The organisation eventually abandoned the policy when it was realised that it was alienating more of the Kurdish civilian population than it was intimidating. The PKK also began assassinating teachers in state schools in the region on the grounds that they were inculcating state propaganda. Villages which refused to join the village guard system risked being labelled as PKK sympathisers by the state security forces. Torture, human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings by elements linked to the state became commonplace.
By the early 1990s, the PKK had around 8,000 militants under arms in the field and effectively controlled large swathes of the countryside in southeast Turkey after dark. It could rely on considerable logistical support from the rural population, sometimes through intimidation but more frequently through sympathy. However, the PKK's attempts to open a second front in the cities in southeastern Turkey proved unsuccessful, partly because of opposition from Turkish Hizbullah and partly because urban cell networks were much easier for the security forces to penetrate. In 1991, death squads affiliated with elements in the security forces began an assassination campaign against known or suspected PKK sympathisers. Most, though not all, of the killings took place in cities and towns.
The PKK benefited from the establishment by the US-led coalition forces of a safe haven for the Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War. Turkey's border with Syria mostly runs across a flat ground, is heavily mined and relatively easy to secure. However, the border between Turkey and Iraq runs through very difficult mountainous terrain and has traditionally been relatively porous. Initially, the PKK's main training camps remained in Syria and the Syrian-controlled Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. But from 1991 onwards it was able to establish forward bases in the mountains of northern Iraq, thus shortening its supply lines to its active units inside Turkey. The PKK was also able to benefit from the limited military capabilities and internal divisions of the Iraqi Kurds, playing one faction off against the other, confident in the knowledge that neither was strong enough on its own to confront the organisation.
In 1992-1994, Ocalan attempted to move the insurgency into a new phase by ordering mass attacks, including up to 500 militants, against military outposts in southeastern Turkey. The strategy failed. Even if the PKK was able to inflict heavy casualties, and even occasionally overrun the outpost, this initial success was more than offset by the Turkish military's ability to mobilise a rapid response, particularly by dispatching helicopters which were able to inflict heavy casualties on a relatively large and exposed group of militants. At the time, the PKK had no defence against air attack, such as no shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).
The use of helicopters, particularly AH-1 Cobras purchased from the US, marked the beginning of a shift in the initiative away from the PKK towards the Turkish security forces. The military began to go on the offensive, improving intelligence and training, launching search and destroy patrols and making greater use of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, mainly US-supplied F-16s, to strike at known PKK positions and the organisation's camps in northern Iraq. The Turkish security forces also burned and evacuated an estimated 3,500 villages in southeastern Turkey, displacing over two million people, in order to deprive PKK units of potential logistical support. Cross-border incursions into northern Iraq intensified, culminating in the deployment of 35,000 troops in March 1995. The troops were withdrawn within a few months, although a brigade remained deployed just inside Iraqi territory to gather intelligence and monitor PKK movements. Such raids rarely resulted in high casualties amongst the PKK as the militants were able to flee deeper into the mountains. But they did allow the Turkish military to cause considerable logistical disruption by seizing stores of food and weaponry.
In 1994, the PKK launched a bombing campaign against the Turkish tourism industry but abandoned it when it became clear that the benefits of the resultant higher international public profile were more than offset by the negative image it gave the organisation and practical consequences such as a crackdown by law enforcement agencies in Europe on PKK fundraising activities amongst the Kurdish diaspora.
In 1997, the PKK began using shoulder-launched SAMs against Turkish helicopters but were unable reverse the decline in the group's fortunes on the battlefield. By 1998, the Turkish military had regained control over most of southeast Turkey, confining the PKK to sporadic attacks and the most inaccessible mountain areas. The Turkish authorities then turned their attention to Syria, amassing 10,000 troops on the country's border with Syria and threatening to invade unless the government in Damascus expelled Ocalan and withdrew its support for the PKK.
The PKK continued to conduct operations following Ocalan's expulsion from Syria on 9 October 1998 and his capture and return to Turkey on 16 February 1999. However, Ocalan's flight and eventual imprisonment ruptured the chain of command within the organisation and severely damaged already falling morale. PKK activity continued at a relatively low level until August 1999 when Ocalan announced an indefinite unilateral ceasefire starting 1 September 1999.
No independent figures are available but the Turkish authorities estimate that the 1984-1999 conflict cost 35,000 lives - approximately 25,000 PKK militants, 5,000 members of the Turkish security forces and 5,000 civilians. However, the death toll is probably higher, not least because the official Turkish figures do not include the many hundreds (and probably several thousands) of victims of extrajudicial killings by elements affiliated with the Turkish state.
Turkish soldiers make their way along the border as twelve battalions of troops backed by Cobra helicopters launched an operation in northern Iraq in June 1997 against the PKK. The operation was launched just south of the Turkish town of Semdinli. (EMPICS)
The second PKK insurgency (2004 to present)
During its five-year unilateral ceasefire, the PKK had kept around 5,000 members under arms and undergoing military training in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq. Initially, around 1,000-1,500 militants had stayed behind in the mountains of southeast Turkey, either in defiance of Ocalan's orders to evacuate Turkey or because they considered the long journey to the Iraqi border to be too vulnerable to attack by the Turkish security forces. Some later succeeded in making the journey. Others deserted or were killed in clashes with the Turkish military. By June 2004, approximately 500 PKK militants were believed still to be in Turkey.
Changes in the regional and global security environment in the period 1999-2001 had a marked impact on the PKK's capabilities. By 2004, the PKK could no longer rely on the active support of Syria and elements in the Greek security forces or on units seeking refuge in Iran. Neither of the Iraqi Kurdish factions in northern Iraq (the KDP and PUK) were strong enough to move against the PKK, but neither were they prepared to actively support the organisation. While law enforcement agencies had clamped down on the organisation's activities in Europe, severely restricting, though not preventing, the flow of funding and recruits.
In June 2004, approximately one third of the PKK militants in the Qandil mountains had joined the organisation since September 1999. Even so, the PKK's relative geographical and political isolation, combined with reduced revenue, had restricted its access to logistical support and arms, particularly more sophisticated weaponry. The organisation was further weakened by the decision to return to violence, which led to several leading commanders breaking away to form rival organisations, the most prominent of which was the Patriotic Democratic Party (Partîya Welatparêzê Demokratên: PWD). The PKK now appears more united and has been largely successful in marginalising rival groups, including through the use of violence.
Nevertheless, the PKK's relative military weakness compared with the 1990s has limited its operational options. Since June 2004, the PKK has pursued a two front strategy comprising a rural insurgency in southeastern Turkey and an urban bombing campaign in the west of the country. Both are primarily designed to exert political leverage in the hope of forcing concessions from the Turkish authorities rather than seizing territory or achieving a military victory. Two foreign tourists were killed in an attack on a hotel in Istanbul in August 2004. Two foreign tourists were also among the five people killed in the bombing of a minibus in the Aegean resort of Kusadasi in July 2005. In late 2005 and early 2006, the PKK also conducted attacked factories, filling stations and natural gas depots in Istanbul.
In March 2006 the Turkish military deployed an additional 150,000 troops into the region, taking the total number of Turkish soldiers in southeast Turkey to 250,000. The intention was to restrict the movements of PKK units and disrupt supply lines to the camps in northern Iraq. However, the PKK continued to carry out sporadic attacks in the countryside, mostly hit-and-run attacks, ambushes and the mining of roads used by the security forces. In late August, the Turkish military launched an artillery bombardment of PKK camps in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq. Iraqi Kurdish sources reported that the attacks did little damage to PKK units as they had already gone into hiding in the mountains. However, there were reports of civilian deaths in the villages under PKK control. The Turkish media reported that Turkish F-16s had also carried a