Most forest fires contained as PKK-linked group vows arson attacks
The causes of the forest fires are still not clear, but suspicions center on the terrorist group PKK, whose members were behind previous forest fires in the country. An affiliate of the terrorist group did not directly claim responsibility for the fires but openly threatened the country with arson attacks targeting both its forests and people on Sunday.
As of Sunday, 107 out of 112 wildfires across the country are under control, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli announced. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was in Antalya to visit the affected areas, said multiple investigations were underway to find the possible perpetrators behind the fires. "We hope that our police, gendarme and intelligence units will analyze every sign, information and intelligence on this issue. We are disturbed by the sabotage suspicion. If there are traitors who have gone so far to set our country on fire, it is our duty to nab them and ensure they receive the harshest punishment," Erdogan said.
The president said that they were aware that the number of forest fires and areas affected by forest fires doubled after the leaders of "the terrorist group" instructed their subordinates to set forests on fire last year. He was referring to the PKK. "We are determined to wipe out the cells of terrorist group in cities, just like we are close to ending their presence in the mountains and beyond our borders," Erdogan added.
Turkish people on social media were quick to put the blame on the PKK-linked "Children of Fire Initiative" late Thursday for a series of fires that have hit Turkey recently, as PKK sympathizers also hailed the fires on Twitter. The PKK has a long history of burning Turkey's forests as a method of "vengeance" against the Turkish state, causing civilian deaths and environmental destruction in the process. The almost consecutive nature of fires triggered concerns that they might be the result of a string of arson attacks, which Turkish netizens blamed the PKK for. The so-called "initiative," in a statement published on their website, threatened the country with new arson attacks Sunday. The group said they would carry out arson attacks everywhere, along with sabotage attacks. It called upon its members to kill anyone opposing the terrorist group by starting fires.
One of the PKK’s highest-ranking members, Murat Karayılan, also previously hailed the method of using arson in terrorist attacks in a statement. “Two or three youths may well gather and do something. They may say ‘we don’t have a weapon’ but their weapons are lighters and matches,” he said. The PKK-linked group used almost verbatim these sentences in their threat.
Shemdin Sakik, another high-ranking PKK terrorist, also previously said that the terrorist group would resort to similar actions if need be. “If we run out of weapons, we will go to Bodrum and burn their yachts, go to Antalya to burn their greenhouses, go to Istanbul to burn their cars and go to Izmir to burn their forests,” he said.
Last October, four provinces around Turkey also fell victim to the PKK’s hatred of nature, with almost simultaneous fires destroying forests in various parts of the country. Turkish authorities were quick to detain suspected arsonists who burned forestland in southern Hatay province’s Belen district, and it was not long before a PKK-aligned terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack. The "Children of Fire Initiative" glorified the attacks on Turkey’s forests, praising the terrorists who initiated the fire. The so-called "initiative" was responsible for many arsons in recent years, and the group is known for its close ties to the PKK terrorist group.
Meanwhile, PKK sympathizers took to social media and further manifested their hatred of forests with jokes making fun of the fire, in a collective effort of terror propaganda. Sharing the links of PKK-linked websites Firat News Agency (ANF) and Nuce Ciwan’s articles that glorify the arsons, the group’s sympathizers continued to celebrate the damage dealt to the environment by the terrorists. In 2019, the group also claimed responsibility for wildfires in Turkey's western, northwestern and southern provinces, declaring "fiery revenge" against the state.