Middle East

US offers rewards of up to $5 million for information on 3 senior PKK leaders

US Department of State offers rewards for information on Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik and Duran Kalkan under Rewards for Justice program

The U.S Department of State offered rewards for information leading to the identification or location of senior PKK leaders Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik and Duran Kalkan under its Rewards for Justice program.

Announced by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer on Tuesday, November 16 while on his first visit to Ankara, the Department offered up to $5 million for information on Murat Karayilan, $4 million for Cemil Bayik and $3 million for Duran Kalkan.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey, and is designated as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies.

The U.S. Department of State designated the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 and the U.S. government listed the PKK as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity in 2001. The PKK was identified “as significant foreign narcotics traffickers under the Kingpin Act” in 2008.

US offers rewards for information on senior PKK leadersAccording to Rewards for Justice:

  • Murat Karayilan is head of the People’s Defense Forces (Hêzên Parastina Gel‎ or HPG), the armed wing of the PKK, and a senior leader of the PKK. He was designated under the Kingpin Act in 2009.
  • Cemil Bayik is an Executive Committee Member, founding member and senior leader of the PKK. He was designated under the Kingpin Act in 2011.
  • Duran Kalkan is an Executive Committee Member and senior leader of the PKK. He was designated under the Kingpin Act in 2011. Rewards for Justice alleges he was responsible for an attack that killed seven Turkish soldiers in December 2009.

In 2007, the PKK restructured its organization, forming Koma Civakên Kurdistan (Kurdistan Communities Union, KCK), an umbrella group for parties that subscribe to the democratic confederalism ideology of jailed PKK founder and leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Bayik and Kalkan are on the leadership committee of the KCK.

The move could be an attempt by the U.S. to mend ties with NATO ally Turkey, which has been enraged by U.S. and Coalition support for the Syrian People’s Defense Forces (YPG) and the Democratic Union political party (PYD), which are considered by the Turkish government to be inextricably linked to the PKK.

Although the YPG and PYD are aligned with the KCK, they are not proscribed organizations in the U.S., European Union, United Kingdom. The YPG is the largest and key component of the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance which is waging the campaign against ISIS in Syria.

On November 2 and 4, U.S. forces conducted patrols in northeastern Syria near the Turkey border after renewed tensions between Ankara and Syrian Kurds following cross-border firing from Turkey that the state-run Anadolu news agency said targeted the YPG.

The patrols came after the SDF said on October 31 it had temporarily halted its fight against Islamic State due to the Turkish military attacks along the Syria-Turkey border east of the Euphrates river.

On November 1, Coalition and Turkish forces began combined patrols near Manbij as part of a “roadmap” reached earlier this year that saw the YPG withdraw.

Turkey has long disputed that the YPG have left the flashpoint city.

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