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Turkey's Kurdish militants 'funded by drug trafficking'

Official says Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) takes up to $2.5 billion annually from drug trade

Turkey's Kurdish militants 'funded by drug trafficking'


The Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) is partly financing its renewed armed campaign against the Turkish state through drug trafficking, a senior Turkish government official said Thursday.

Aziz Yildirim, a deputy undersecretary at the Interior Ministry, said a large quantity of the group’s drug supplies as well as money earned from the trade were destroyed in recent Turkish airstrikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq’s Qandil Mountains.

“The PKK needs a fund to maintain itself and is operating in many fields to get this fund -- one of those is drug funds," Yildirim told a meeting on fighting the drug trade in Ankara.

Citing unnamed U.S. sources, Yildirim claimed the group made between $500 million and $2.5 billion a year from drug trafficking.

His claims were backed by Cengiz Erisir, an Interior Ministry official concerned with smuggling and organized crime.

“Security units ascertained the PKK was involved in 381 incidents within direct drug smuggling since 1984 and 1,283 PKK members were prosecuted over these incidents,” he said.

Erisir said that as recently as last November, 4,700 kilograms of PKK-owned cannabis were seized near Lice in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir.

As well as trading in cannabis, he said the PKK was involved in transferring “opium derivatives” to Europe from northern Iraq.

“We know heroin is produced in very comprehensive factories and we have reliable and informative sources about it,” he said.

In 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned PKK supporters running drug trafficking networks based in Moldova and Romania.

The PKK, which has waged a separatist fight against the Turkish state for 30 years, agreed to a cease-fire in 2013 that was broken last month following the July 20 suicide bombing in Suruc, southern Turkey, that killed 33 activists.

The group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, has attacked security forces, martyring at least 60, while the Turkish military has responded with air and land operations that have killed around 800 PKK militants, according to the Turkish General Staff.

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