'PJAK militants replaced PKK in Turkey'

Ocalan, the younger brother of the jailed PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan said that members of an Iranian-based militant offshoot have replaced the militants based in Turkey.

'PJAK militants replaced PKK in Turkey'
PKK militants who have found haven in northern Iraq from Turkey have returned to their homeland in the past two weeks and Iran-based militants have taken their place, the PKK leader's brother said.

A spokesman for the Kurdish government in the self-ruled region could not confirm Osman Ocalan's claim that the members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, had withdrawn, but said Thursday the government would not accept "any armed struggle to be launched from our territories against any neighboring country."

Ocalan, the younger brother of the jailed PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan said that members of an Iranian-based militant offshoot have replaced the militants based in Turkey.

He said the militants were leaving "to ease the burden" on the Kurdish regional government, which has been pressed on all sides — by its U.S. supporters, Iraq's central government and Turkey — to move against the militants.

"The PKK fighters have evacuated their posts in Iraq's Qandil mountain chain, and gone to Turkish Kurdistan," Ocalan said, adding that the PKK militants were largely replaced by militants from the anti-Iran Free Life Iranian Kurdish Party.

Jabar Yawar, a spokesman for Kurdistan's Peshmerga Regional Defense Forces and a former guerrilla militant himself, said the government could not say whether the PKK had left.

"But for us, as a government, we do not accept any armed struggle to be launched from our territories against any neighboring country," he said.

Abdullah Ocalan is serving a life term on a prison island near Istanbul, Turkey. Osman Ocalan, 49, himself a former PKK leader, said he left the militant group in 2003 has joined "comrades who have a democratic platform and believe in peaceful democratic settlement of the Kurdish issue."

"For 20 years, I was part of the struggle; but because of ideological differences, I pulled out of it. Now I am with armed fighters who defend themselves, but am against the PKK," he said in an interview at a restaurant in Koi-Sanjaq. He said his group included PKK "political" veterans.

A Turkish government official and high-ranking retired military officer said in early November that intelligence information indicated the militants were evacuating their camps and melting away into cities and other regions.

PEJAK, the newest group based in Iran, claims to number thousands of recruits, and targets only Iran — a mission which has made PEJAK the subject of intense speculation that it is being used to undermine Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Though he has left the PKK, Osman Ocalan said he knew about the withdrawal and the PKK's financial resources through his many years of experience with the group. He claimed the PKK has nearly 7,000 militants: 3,000 in Turkey, 2,000 in Iran under the offshoot Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, or PEJAK, and 1,700 in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ocalan said some PKK members may have deserted to join the anti-Iran group, but according to a statement from PEJAK, the Turkish group's headquarters are now occupied by its own militants.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Aralık 2007, 12:37
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