Belgium cracks down on PKK’s drug network poisoning half of Europe

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
Published 02.09.2017 14:15
Updated 02.09.2017 14:34

Police apprehended a network distributing drugs to half of Europe and funneling the money to the PKK terrorist group in simultaneous operations in Belgium and Austria.

The network, which is centered in the Flemish town of Hasselt, transferred the drugs through the Belgian and Dutch ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, Belga news agency reported.

The drugs were then split into five kilogram packages and hidden in secret compartments of cars that transported the drugs to Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Belgian security forces conducted a raid on the safe house in Hasselt on an undisclosed date, seizing 30 kilograms of cocaine, 12 kilograms of heroin, numerous synthetic drugs including ecstasy pills, firearms and 800,000 euros in cash.

Ten people were detained in Belgium as part of the probe, including the network's leader. Meanwhile in Austria, four people were sentenced to total 21.5 years in jail, and an arrest warrant was issued for a fifth suspect who remains on the run.

A report by Flemish language Het Belang van Limburg newspaper stated that the network had managed to collect millions of euros from heroin alone, which they then funneled into the PKK terrorist group.

In another operation, nine kg of heroin and €75,000 were seized in Austria, it added.

The Belgian police captured the leader of the gang thanks to the support and information from the Austrian court.

Turkey has long accused Belgium, along with other EU countries, of turning a blind eye on the activities of the PKK and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C) terrorist groups.

A Europol report issued in June cited Belgium, along with France, German, Italy, Romania and Switzerland, as countries where the PKK could freely carry out propaganda activities and fundraisers. The report also noted the PKK's attacks against institutions, community centers and properties of millions of Turks living in Europe.

Turkish intelligence sources said earlier in December that the PKK terror organization gains 30 million euros income per year by collecting fees from its foundations in European countries despite the group being listed as a terrorist organization by the EU.

The terrorist group is also involved in drug, arms and human trafficking, abductions, extortion, murder and forced or voluntary recruitment throughout Europe.

Because the PKK mainly operates in the predominantly Kurdish mountainous region between southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq and western Iran, it has a significant role in drug trade between central Asia and Afghanistan, where opium is mainly cultivated, and markets in Europe where it has numerous sympathizers and facilitators among the Kurdish diaspora.

The terrorist group is also the main actor in illegal drug trade inside Turkey. Through routine operations and field scans that began in the spring, Turkish security forces have located and destroyed hundreds of hectares of cannabis fields planted in the remote countryside of southeast Turkey, where it is cultivated, processed and shipped to large urban centers in the west.

Zübeyir Aydar, a senior PKK member designated an international drug trafficker by the U.S. Treasury Department, was arrested in Belgium in 2010, but released three weeks later.

Founded in 1978, the PKK, which is also designated a terrorist group by the U.S., the E.U. and NATO, resumed its decades-long armed campaign against the Turkish state in July 2015.

Since then, more than 1,200 people, including security force personnel and civilians, have lost their lives, while the terrorist group has lost some 10,000 militants, who were either killed or apprehended in anti-terror operations by Turkish security forces.

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