Three terrorist foreign fighters killed this month while fighting in PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) ranks have revealed the existence of radical ideologies from different political backgrounds in the terrorist group.
The YPG yesterday announced that a Spanish and French national were killed in clashes with the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and Free Syrian Army (FSA) in northwestern Syria's Afrin region. A foreign terrorist from the Netherlands also killed in a battle in Deir ez-Zor who had been fighting under the umbrella of U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is predominantly formed by YPG elements.
The French national, Olivier Francois Jean Le Clainche, 41, allegedly the leader of foreign nationals in the YPG, hailed Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, a Marxist-Leninist group that has been waging a war against the Turkish state for nearly 40 years, in a video reportedly shot shortly before he was killed.
After declaring that they were ready to fight against Turkish forces, Le Clainche, whose nom de guerre was "Kendal Breizh," was shouting the PKK slogan: "Biji Serok Apo," in the video, which means "Long live leader Apo," in reference to Öcalan. The video is the last footage of Le Clainche before he was killed on Feb. 10 in a clash in the town Jinderes in southwestern Afrin. Spanish national Samuel Prada Leon was killed the same day as Le Clainche in Jinderes.
The death of Dutch national Sjoerd Heeger, who was killed on Feb. 12 in the southeastern province of Deir ez-Zor in a clash with Assad regime forces or Iranian-backed militias, offers a more interesting story. He fought against Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine with the Right Sector, an ultranationalist group of paramilitaries containing neo-Nazi elements that refused to be incorporated into the Ukrainian military. An article, "Ukraine turns a blind eye to ultrarightist militia," published in the Washington Post on Feb. 13, 2017, contained a short interview with Heeger, says:
"Nearby, Sjoerd Heeger, 22, grasps an AK-47 assault rifle and surveys no man's land through orange-tinted sunglasses. A former trash collector and call center worker, he is the butt of relentless teasing as an archetypal war tourist. ‘My mum doesn't know I'm here. Maybe I'll send her a photo of a grenade. She's used to me disappearing,' he says."
The reasons that brought a sympathizer of Öcalan, the leader of a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group, and a neo-Nazi under the same umbrella are obscure. However, it is well-known that the YPG contains many such radicalized people from different countries, most often outcasts.
Last month, a video published by the YPG showing foreign nationals vowing to fight in their ranks once again pointed to an issue that has played a significant role in conflicts devastating entire countries in the Middle East.
In a video posted on YouTube by an account called the "YPG Press Office," six people dubbed "international volunteers" claim that they will fight in Afrin as part of a battalion named after one of the dead militants of either the YPG or the PKK's armed People's Defense Forces (HPG), who was described as a martyr.
They also levied baseless accusations against Turkey of supporting Daesh and the al-Nusra Front. The country has been very active in fighting both terrorist organizations and is the only foreign country that has actively fought against Daesh on the ground.
So far, Ankara has deported more than 5,000 Daesh suspects and 3,290 foreign terrorists from 95 countries and has dismantled several terrorist cells that provided logistical assistance in Syria and Iraq, as well as those who plotted attacks inside the country. In addition, some 55,000 foreign nationals were banned from entering the country, despite poor cooperation from other countries. As a result of these efforts, Turkey become one of the primary targets of the terrorist group in a string of deadly suicide attacks between 2015 and 2017.