Germany Reports PKK Funding as Tensions Rise on Iraq Border
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Tensions have been rising on the Turkish-Iraqi border
While the tensions between Turkey and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels continue, reports in Germany suggest that Kurds living in the country are forced to hand over millions of euros to the group.
Experts believe that while some of Germany's 600,000 Kurdish immigrants give the money willingly to fund its separatist campaign in southeastern Turkey, others are pressured into contributing under duress.
The PKK is an outlawed nationalist Kurdish guerrilla group waging a bloody campaign for self-rule in southeast Turkey since 1974. It took up arms against Turkey in 1984, aiming to create an ethnic homeland in the southeast. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
A spokesman for Germany's BfV domestic intelligence services, commenting on the reports, said that the KONGRA-GEL, the PKK's political wing, is blackmailing Kurdish immigrants with mafia-like demands for protection money of one month's salary a year or much more in the case of wealthy businessmen. "In this way they collect millions of euros in Germany every year," the spokesperson stated.
The reports came to light in the wake of violent clashes between Kurds and Turkish nationalists in Berlin, Heilbronn and Mülheim at last weekend. In Berlin, 18 policemen were injured trying to break up fighting between the two sides, after Turkish nationalists held a march in support of Ankara's threat to launch strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq.
The German intelligence services have since stepped up their surveillance of PKK activists in Germany. They estimate that there are 11,500 PKK members in Germany, of whom 1,000 live in Berlin.
Germany banned the PKK in 1993 after it carried out a campaign of fire-bombings on Turkish and German institutions in Berlin.
PKK activity in Germany intensifies
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: German Kurds are pressured to contribute to the PKK cause
Experts have been monitoring an intensification of PKK activities in Germany, which is home to 2.5 million Turks -- the biggest Turkish community outside Turkey. PKK activity slowed down in 2003 but has gradually been picking up in the four years since, according to reports.
According to German police sources, the PKK is also involved in drug trafficking in Germany and uses the spoils to fund its separatist struggle. Police have confirmed that several investigations have revealed a link between the PKK and drug dealers.
Turkish intelligence services believe that the PKK raises 300 million euros ($430 million) a year and last year spent 15 million euros on arms, notably in Iraq. In April, police confiscated 16,000 euros in banknotes in a raid on 32 suspected members of the PKK in Bavaria in southern Germany.
In recent years, a number of PKK members have been arrested in Germany for securing financing for the group, which has been branded a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Last year German police arrested a Turk of Kurdish origin suspected of being the leader of the PKK and KONGRA-GEL in Germany and heading its fundraising and propaganda activities here.
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