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Italian police arrested 11 people Friday on suspicion of recruiting members of the Kurdish community in Europe to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, officials said.
The arrests follow a lengthy investigation into allegations that members of the militant, separatist movement the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, were recruiting ethnic Kurds at camps in Italy and France.
From Today’s Zaman’s report about the operation:
Venice’s anti-terrorism police said in a statement Friday that they have issued 11 arrest warrants for 10 Turkish citizens and an Italian who allegedly supplied fighters to the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union (EU). Another 16 people are under investigation.
The operation in Italy was concentrated in the northern cities, including Treviso, Pisa, Modena, Udine, Pordenone and Milan. Information discovered in a March 2009 search in Viterbo reportedly helped police in the recent operation. In the Viterbo search, police found a number of letters and a photograph which showed a Turkish man posing with a machine gun. The letters were later discovered to belong to a girl who had left the city to join the PKK.
Police reported that the investigation is being conducted alongside a parallel French probe and also involves police in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The investigation, carried out in Italy and France, had discovered a “recruitment district” tasked with finding resources and people to fight against Turkish interests along the country’s border with Iraq, police said.
Many analysts are heralding the operation – which involved security forces from Italy, France, Holland, Belgium and Germany – as an example of successful cross-border collaboration. While police say this is the first time the PKK has been discovered trying to recruit in Italy, in early February the Turkish media reported that Belgian State Security Service believed ethnic Kurds, including militant groups, have a strong presence in European social organizations.
While details of the operation are still coming out, for its part, Turkey appears thrilled to have a success to talk about in a conflict that began more than 25 years ago, and are hopeful that these operations will help stem the flow of recruits to the PKK.
The PKK took up arms for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey in the mid-1980s. Since then, the conflict has claimed more than40,000 lives.
Many of Turkey’s Kurdish community – roughly 20 percent of the population – sympathize with the PKK rebels who demand Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in the country's Kurdish areas.
Last August, the government announced plans to expand Kurdish freedoms in a bid to erode popular support for the PKK and end the insurgency. This movement faltered in late-2009, however, after a ban on the country's mainly Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP). Ankara has vowed to push ahead with the reforms amidst street protests and continuing PKK violence.
Here's CNN’s full report.