Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu tells Anadolu Agency terrorist PKK seeing 30-year low in recruitment, membership
Security forces carried out almost 68,500 nationwide counterterrorism operations over the last year, Turkey’s interior minister said Thursday.
Speaking at Anadolu Agency's Editors' Desk in the capital Ankara, Suleyman Soylu said 40,000 of these operations were against the PKK terror group, 25,000 against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) -- the group responsible for last year's defeated coup -- and over 2,100 against Daesh.
Touching on the significance of drones, Soylu said Turkey’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and armed drones have played an important role in dealing with the terror threat.
"We have significantly crippled the PKK's mobility through UAVs, the intelligence we obtained, our assessments and monitoring," he said, calling UAVS and armed drones “one of Turkey’s most significant innovations in the last few years.”
He said unmanned aerial vehicles have spent some 2,600 hours in counterterror operations this year.
He said the country's counterterrorism teams are also targeting people financing terror in Turkish cities.
"We have ongoing operations in the cities especially against those elements financing terror. Those elements include municipalities, so-called civil society groups, and those aiding terror under the guise of political identity,” he said.
Soylu also said the PKK is seeing a 30-year low in recruitment and membership, something causing "serious demoralization" in the terror group.
More than 1,200 people, including security force personnel and civilians, have lost their lives since the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization also by the U.S., and EU -- resumed its decades-old armed campaign in July 2015.
Refugees in Turkey
Soylu said the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has reached 3.2 million.
“A total of 330,744 of the refugees are staying in our camps according to our records.”
Turkey hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country in the world. The country has spent around $25 billion helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
Soylu explained: “We have around 250,000 migrants from Iraq. There are also migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Somalia.”
He added: "The reason these migrants to come to Turkey and leave Turkey is another matter of foreign policy. We are working on these issues.”
“There are around 4.5 million migrants in Turkey,” he said.
Fight against drugs
“There is a serious problem regarding drugs. We need to solve this problem, because it is also a terror issue,” said Soylu.
“Drug revenues of $1.5 million go to the PKK,” he added.
He added that bonsai and other synthetic drugs are coming to Turkey from Europe.
Turkey is not a transit country, but the destination, he said.
“They are trying to poison our children using these drugs. This is at the same time an important cultural issue,” he added.
“Our government, NGOs, and governor’s offices are working in coordination. NGOs especially need to focus on this issue. Over the last year, operations against drugs have tripled, and seizures have doubled,” he continued.