A group thought to be affiliated with the PKK terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for recent wildfires in Turkey's western, northwestern and southern provinces, declaring "fiery revenge" against the state.
In a written statement published on a pro-PKK website Monday, the group, calling itself "the Children of the Fire Initiative," took responsibly for starting 27 separate fires in western metropolitan cities between July 11 and Aug 24, including the one in western Izmir province, which affected more than 500 hectares of forest in Karabağlar, Menderes and Seferihisar districts.
The PKK-linked group said they razed forests in western cities as an act of revenge further claiming that they will continue to set fire to other green areas and lands "until a "free autonomous Kurdistan" is established.
The group also said the recent trustee appointments to the three predominantly-Kurdish cities in southeastern Turkey was one of the reasons for committing such acts to take revenge.
The mayors of Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin metropolitan municipalities from the pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) were dismissed last week by the Interior Ministry over terrorism charges.
There has been no official confirmation from Ankara or local authorities that the widespread wildfires were related to terrorism. However, it was not entirely ruled out that the cause of the fires could be related to sabotage or arson.
Formed in 1978, the PKK, recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S., and EU has been waging violent attacks against the state and citizens since 1984, during which nearly 40,000 people have been killed. In addition to suicide bombings, deadly ambushes and massacres against civilians, the PKK either claimed or was accused of starting many forest fires in the past.
The terrorist group is also known to have claimed responsibility for various incidents unrelated to the group as sabotage acts or attacks. Recently on July 13, the PKK-affiliated Fırat News Agency's (ANF) reported that a forest fire on the outskirts of Mount Aydos in Pendik district was claimed by the "People's United Revenge Militia" group, which is a part of the "Peoples' United Revolution Movement" umbrella group of several illegal extreme-left terrorist groups mainly backed by the PKK. However, the Istanbul Governorate said in a statement that the investigation into the fire revealed that two children accidentally started the fire.
Moreover, during Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in 2018 that cleared the Syrian border city of Afrin from PKK terrorists' Syrian affiliate the People's Protection Units (YPG), fleeing terrorists burned down hundreds of acres of forest land on the Amanos Mountains in the adjacent southern Turkish province Hatay. PKK terrorists also burned forests in the Dörtyol district of Hatay and the Havran district of Balıkesir.
In another case, three terrorists were arrested after they were identified as the perpetrators of a 2011 forest fire in Foça, Izmir.