Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001 - Turkey

The Turkish Government, long a staunch counterterrorism ally, fully supported the campaign against terrorism. Turkey provided basing and overflight rights and has sent troops to Afghanistan to train the local military and participate in the International Security Assistance Force. At home, Turkish security authorities dealt heavy blows to the country's two most active terrorist organizations, the DHKP/C and Turkish Hizballah – a Kurdish Islamic (Sunni) extremist organization unrelated to Lebanese Hizballah. Police arrested more than 100 members and supporters of the DHKP/C and several hundred members and supporters of Turkish Hizballah and raided numerous safe houses, recovering large caches of weapons, computers and other technical equipment, and miscellaneous documents.

Despite these setbacks, the DHKP/C retained a lethal capability and, for the first time in its history, conducted suicide bombings. On 3 January, a DHPK/C operative walked into a police regional headquarters in Istanbul and detonated a bomb strapped to his body, killing himself and a policeman, and injuring seven others. A second DHKP/C suicide bomber attacked a police booth in a public square in Istanbul on 10 September, killing two policemen, mortally wounding an Australian tourist, and injuring more than 20.

Turkish Hizballah conducted its first attack against official Turkish interests with the assassination on 24 January of Diyarbakir Police Chief Gaffar Okkan and five policemen – revealing a greater sophistication than the group had shown in previous attacks. According to press reports, four teams consisting of as many as 20 operatives ambushed Okkan's motorcade as he departed the Diyarbakir Governor's office. Authorities recovered approximately 460 bullet casings at the scene. Hizballah operatives also ambushed three police officers in Istanbul on 14 October, killing two and wounding the other.

Chechen separatists and sympathizers also used Turkey as a staging ground for terrorist attacks. On 22 April, 13 pro-Chechen gunmen – led by Muhammed Tokcan, an ethnic-Chechen Turkish national who served fewer than four years in prison for hijacking a Russian ferry from Turkey in 1996 – took over a prominent Istanbul hotel, holding hostage for 12 hours approximately 150 guests, including 37 US citizens. The gunmen, who eventually surrendered peacefully, claimed that they wanted to focus world attention on Russia's activities in Chechnya. Turkey's court system has been relatively lenient with pro-Chechen terrorists. The state court addressing the hotel incident did not indict Tokcan's group under the country's stringent antiterrorism laws but instead charged the militants with less serious crimes, including weapons possession and deprivation of liberty.

Separately, three Chechens hijacked a Russian charter jet carrying 175 passengers, mostly Russian nationals, from Istanbul to Moscow on 15 March. Fuel limitations forced the plane to land in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities negotiated with the hijackers overnight before special forces stormed the plane and captured two of the separatists. The third hijacker, one crewmember, and one passenger were killed during the rescue.

The PKK continued to pursue its "peace initiative" – launched by imprisoned PKK Chairman Abdullah Ocalan in August 1999 – concentrating largely on its public relations efforts in Western Europe. The leadership announced early in the year the inauguration of a second phase of its peace initiative, called serhildan (uprising) – the term usually connotes violent activity, but the PKK uses it to refer to civil disobedience – in which PKK members in Europe openly declare their identity as Kurds and their involvement in the group, sign petitions, and hold demonstrations in an effort to push for improved rights for the Kurdish minority in Turkey. The PKK began conducting serhildan activities in Turkey toward the end of the year; authorities arrested some PKK members who participated.


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