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Research

Terrorist Organizations and Other Groups of Concern

Turkish Hizballah

Updated August 24, 2007

From: "Chapter 8; Other Groups of Concern," Country Reports on Terrorism 2005, US Department of State, April 30, 2006.

Description
Turkish Hizballah is a Kurdish Sunni Islamic terrorist organization that arose in the early 1980s in response to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)'s secularist approach of establishing an independent Kurdistan. Turkish Hizballah spent its first 10 years fighting the PKK, accusing the group of atrocities against Muslims in southeastern Turkey, where Turkish Hizballah seeks to establish an independent Islamic state.

Activities
Beginning in the mid-1990s, Turkish Hizballah, which is unrelated to Lebanese Hizballah, expanded its target base and modus operandi from killing PKK militants to conducting low-level bombings against liquor stores, bordellos, and other establishments the organization considered "anti-Islamic." In January 2000, Turkish security forces killed Huseyin Velioglu, the leader of Turkish Hizballah, in a shootout at a safe house in Istanbul. The incident sparked a year-long series of counterterrorist operations against the group that resulted in the detention of some 2,000 individuals; authorities arrested several hundred of them on criminal charges. At the same time, police recovered nearly 70 bodies of Turkish and Kurdish businessmen and journalists whom Turkish Hizballah had tortured and brutally murdered during the mid-to-late 1990s. The group began targeting official Turkish interests in January 2001, when its operatives assassinated the Diyarbakir police chief in the group's most sophisticated operation to date. Turkish Hizballah has not conducted a major operation since 2001, and probably is focusing at present on recruitment, fundraising, and reorganization.

Strength
Possibly a few hundred members and several thousand supporters.

Location/Area of Operation
Primarily the Diyarbakir region of southeastern Turkey.

External Aid
It is widely believed that Turkey's security apparatus originally backed Turkish Hizballah to help the Turkish Government combat the PKK. Alternative views are that the Turkish Government ignored Turkish Hizballah activities because its primary targets were PKK members and supporters, or that the government simply had to prioritize scarce resources and was unable to wage war on both groups simultaneously. Allegations of collusion have never been laid to rest, and the Government of Turkey continues to issue denials. Turkish Hizballah also is suspected of having ties with Iran, although there is not sufficient evidence to establish a link.