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Middle East

Ankara escalating its war on terror

After a spate of attacks, the Turkish government is planning tougher action against the TAK, which has been targeting major cities. Terrorism experts are concerned about the escalation. Hilal Köylü reports from Ankara.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) are a well-known terror organization in Turkey. All Turkish government agencies know that TAK, which targeted Besiktas, a neighborhood known as the heart of Istanbul, is a branch of the PKK. Security forces are once again on high-alert and pursuing members and sympathizers of the group.

Previous TAK attacks have taken a high toll. In February of this year, an attack on a vehicle carrying military personnel in Ankara killed 30 people, while a car bomb attack in March killed another 38 in downtown Kizilay, one of the busiest places in the capital. After these attacks, the terror threat level was raised and checkpoints were established on roads leading in and out of major cities.

The measures to be taken against the PKK and TAK are high on Ankara's agenda, even as Operation Euphrates Shield continues against the "Islamic State" threat in Syria.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu's declaration "Sooner or later, we will have our revenge" is a clear sign that the government will be cracking down on terror.

'TAK: a typical underground organization'

Türkei Ankara Innenminister Süleyman Soylu (picture-alliance/AA/A. Izgi)

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu: We will get our revenge

Terror experts believe that PKK and TAK operations are planned and carried out in close cooperation. Speaking to DW about the war on terror, terrorism expert Nihat Ali Ozcan at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) stated that "TAK attacks are not independent from the PKK. But TAK attacks are more notorious. The PKK has been active for 40 years and in that time had the idea to create TAK and set it loose."

Ozcan also believes that TAK is sending a basic message with the attack in Besiktas. "TAK is a typical underground organization. And they're taking advantage of the PKK's technical and strategic infrastructure. That's why the police are having trouble reaching TAK," he added.

'PKK uses TAK to do their dirty work'

"The PKK knows that if they go into rural areas and kill police officers or soldiers, they won't be taken seriously. So, they use TAK in attacks on cities and to target civilians. The PKK has been claiming to want to form their own state for the past 40 years. They know that they can't kill civilians because if they do, they will lose legitimacy and support internationally. So, they use TAK to do their dirty work. That way, they cause alarm in politics and society. They're going up against the government. So the two [sides] are pitted against one another," said Ozcan.

Ozcan argues that if the current dynamic and balance continues internally as well as in the region, PKK and TAK attacks will increase. "Unfortunately, we expect attacks to intensify during the transition [from the parliamentary] to the presidential system. The Turkish government has been cracking down on the PKK internally while, widening operations in the Syrian region. Therefore, showdowns and intense attacks will continue."

Screenshot TAK Freiheits Falken Kurdistans (teyrebazenkurdistan.com)

Screenshot from the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK)

'Attacks will intensify'

Terrorism and political expert Prof. Mehmet Akif Okur from Gazi University, agrees with Nihat Ali Ozcan's prediction that the "terror attacks will intensify."

Okur believes that the PKK wants to permanently keep all that it has gained so far, which are the cantons it has taken control of in northern Syria. Turkey's military presence in the region is perceived as the biggest obstacle for the PKK. Okur explains: "The Euphrates Shield Operation has troubled the PKK. Just as they were trying to establish an autonomous region in northern Syria, Turkey threw a monkey wrench into things."

Okur also notes that the PKK has been lobbying intensively for international support, while making American support of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) sustainable. By doing so, the PKK aims to bring Turkey back to the bargaining table. "That is why they're intensifying terror attacks on major cities via TAK," he explains.

He also stated that while he knows there are many questions as to why security forces weren't able to prevent these attacks, everyone needs to know that "the PKK has been attacking with all its resources. And every attack must be evaluated separately." Okur also believes that the government will reciprocate very harshly, fueling tensions.

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