Turkey has launched attacks into northern Iraq to destroy the mountain bases of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a nationalist terrorist group that has killed 30,000 people in raids and bombings in Turkey in recent decades. The PKK fairly bristles with weapons, according to one April report:
The latest PKK [arms] store was discovered outside the southeastern city of Şiirt, in Eruh province [in Turkey]. During a routine patrol of the area [by Turkish security forces], 40 kilos of ammonium nitrate were found. In Hatay, meanwhile, 1.5 kilos of plastic explosive material was captured, along with 12 kilos of TNT. In Mardin, 300 grams of the explosive A4 and 800 grams of ammonium nitrate were captured. In Şırnak, four kilos of A4 explosive and five mortar rounds were seized.
So where does the PKK get its weapons? During the last round of Turkish attacks on the terrorist group in the late 1990s, the Federation of American Scientists investigated:
The PKK has apparently had little difficulty finding weapons. In January of this year, the leader of the insurgency, Abdullah Ocalan, spoke of an international arms supply network that extends “from Afghanistan to Central Europe.” He added that PKK arms purchases occur in Istanbul, as well. In May, the PKK shot down two Turkish military helicopters in northern Iraq using Russian-made shoulder-launched missiles. U.S. intelligence reportedly has identified organized crime networks in Russia, as well as smugglers in Poland and Bulgaria, as the likely source of supply. These networks have reportedly sent small shipments of 150-200 weapons at a time — including small arms, assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and anti-aircraft missiles — through two principal routes, one along Turkey’s northeastern border on the Black Sea, and the other on the Bulgarian border in Thrace. The Turkish military routinely accuses neighbors with whom it has bad relations of supporting the PKK. A Turkish military spokesman recently named Syria, Greece, Cyprus, and Armenia as suppliers of weapons and training to the insurgents. All have denied the allegation.
Don’t discount the possibilty that the Kurdish regional government is involved. I was in northern Iraq 18 months ago reporting for C-SPAN. Rather than fly home on one of Iraq’s rickety airliners, I opted to cross by land into Turkey for my flight. To spare me any hassle at the hands of paranoid Turkish border guards, my handlers – shadowy associates of the regional government in Erbil – hooked me up with a Kurdish agent masquerading as a traxi driver. For 30 bucks and half a pack of Marlboro reds, he whisked me through security and all the way to the Diyarbakir airport in record time. The trick? He carried black market booze and smokes in the trunk, some for sale and the rest for greasing palms. As far as I know, we weren’t hauling any explosives or rifle ammo, but we sure could’ve.