Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has described the US State Department's decision to offer rewards in exchange for information on three key figures of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group as a “late” move that the Ankara government will take “cautiously.”
“They (Americans) say they are making a distinction between the PKK, and the People's Protection Units (YPG) and Democratic Union Party (PYD). But they cannot fool us. We have told them many times that the organic link between them [the PKK and YPG/PYD] is not [purely] instrumental,” Kalin said on Tuesday.
“We will take this cautiously. It is a late decision,” the senior Turkish official noted.
Kalin went on to say that if Washington's intention is to obscure its ongoing support to the YPG, the truth will soon come out.
Earlier in the day, the US Department of State's Rewards for Justice program authorized up to $12 million of rewards for information leading to the identification or location of PKK's acting leader Murat Karayilan, founding member Cemil Bayik, and senior leader Duran Kalkan.
The US Embassy in Ankara announced in a statement that a bounty of up to $5 million had been approved for Karayilan, $4 million for Bayik and $3 million for Kalkan.
Karayilan has been the PKK's acting leader ever since the militant group's founder and leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured by Turkish security forces in 1999.
Bayik is a member of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an alliance of pro-Kurdish groups. He is also the mastermind of a car bomb attack at Ankara's central Kizilay Square in March 2016. At least 35 people lost their lives in the bombing.
Kalkan is responsible for an attack that killed seven Turkish soldiers in December 2009.
Top Kurdish PKK terrorist 'neutralized' in southeastern Turkey
Meanwhile, Turkish government forces have "neutralized" a high-ranking PKK militant during a counter-terrorism operation in the country’s southeastern province of Sirnak.
Turkey’s Interior Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Bedirhan Abo, better known by the nom de guerre Masiro, was neutralized during an operation supported by military aircraft in the mountainous Cudi area of the province.
The statement added that the militant had a bounty of 4 million Turkish lira ($746,000) on his head, and was in the red category of the ministry's wanted terrorists.
The Turkish military generally uses the term "neutralize" to signify that the militants were killed, captured or surrendered.
PKK militants regularly clash with Turkish forces in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of Turkey attached to northern Iraq.
Turkey, along with the European Union and the United States, has declared the PKK a terrorist group and banned it. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.
A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.
Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.
More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the autonomy-seeking militant group.
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