The Interior Ministry has suspended some 635 village guards for links to terrorist groups and other offenses. The ministry in a statement said that 559 guards were suspected for their affiliation with terrorist groups and "groups posing threat to national security." Seventy-six others were suspected for reportedly being involved in smuggling, human trafficking and drug-related offenses. The statement said that suspension was "a measure" before the related investigations came to an end.
Village guards or "güvenlik korucusu" (security guard) as they were called formally in Turkish, have been for decades an indispensable part of Turkey's counterterrorism measures in the country's eastern and southeastern regions. They are chosen among locals with skills to use weapons and most are members of tribes that oppose the PKK's presence in the country's east. The PKK, which claims to fight for Kurdish self-rule in the southeast, remains a threat in the region despite continuous counterterrorism operations.
Some 55,000 people work as village guards and their activities mostly cover security of rural, remote areas that are more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Village guards were first introduced as a paramilitary unit in 1985 to help the security forces, at a time when the PKK emerged as a major terror threat in the southeast.