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Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)

Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)

LEADER: Dursun Karatas

YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1978 as Dev-Sol; renamed DHKP/C in 1994

USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Turkey, primarily in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and Adana

OVERVIEW

The radical leftist organization Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (RPLP/F; in Turkish, Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Partisi/Cephesi, abbreviated DHKP/C) was initially formed in Turkey in 1978 by Dursun Karatas. At that time, it was known as the Revolutionary Left (in Turkish as Devrimci Sol, abbreviated Dev-Sol). The Dev-Sol consisted of former members from factions of Turkish radical leftist groups. Before 1978, the group was a splinter group of the Revolutionary Voice (in Turkish Devrimci Yol, abbreviated Dev-Yol), which itself was a splinter group of the Turkish People's Liberation Party-Front (THKP-C). The THKP-C was part of the larger Turkish group called the Revolutionary Youth (in Turkish Devrimci Genclik, abbreviated Dev-Genc).

The Dev-Sol was renamed DHKP/C and formally established by Karatas in 1994 when disgruntled members split from the THKP-C after disputes with other members. The "Party" part of the group's name represents its political side, while the "Front" stands for its military operations. The anti-Western DHKP/C maintains a philosophy based on a Marxist-Leninist ideology. It strongly opposes such perceived imperialistic, oligarchic groups as the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Turkish government and its established society. The DHKP/C uses violence against its enemies that it perceives to hinder independence and prevent favorable economic conditions for the Turkish people. Its primary goal is to establish a socialist state in Turkey and its secondary goal is to improve Turkish prison conditions.

HISTORY

Dev-Sol was formed in 1978. By the early 1990s, conflicts within the much-expanded group caused its founder, Dursun Karatas, to establish in 1994 the DHKP/C. At this time, Bedri Yagan, also a Dev-Sol founder, split from DHKP/C and formed THKP-C. (Although THKP-C represents the same name as the earlier group, it is a distinct organization.)

According to the MIPT article, "DHKP-C," and the associated articles that chronicled the group's activities, on April 14, 1995, DHKP/C firebombed a Turkish Airlines office in Vienna, Austria. Afterwards, the group claimed responsibility for the act, which left no one injured or dead, by leaving a red flag with a yellow star and the initials DHKC. The DHKP/C also firebombed five Turkish banks in Cologne, Germany. Similarly, no injuries or fatalities occurred. Later, the police arrested nine Turkish suspects believed associated with the incidents.

That same year, on July 14, DHKP/C members invaded Galata Tower in Istanbul, Turkey. They took thirty people hostage, including sixteen foreign tourists. To demonstrate its opposition to the imprisonment of fellow activists from the New Democracy Movement offices, DHKP/C members draped banners from a restaurant. No hostages were hurt or killed.

On October 6, 1995, DHKP/C attacked people working inside the Turkish Consulate in Hamburg, Germany. After taking over the building, members painted slogans on the walls. Again, no injuries or fatalities resulted.

In 1996, DHKP/C made what is generally considered its first significant terrorist attack when it fired a rocket at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. That same year, the group assassinated an important Turkish businessman and two associates. At various times in the first half of the year, DHKP/C attacked several Turkish communities. On July 30, the group firebombed a mosque in Leverkusen, Germany.

In 1997, police stopped DHKP/C from operating in the Adana and Osmaniye regions near the Mediterranean Sea. As a result, in 1998, DHKP/C leaders moved its operations to the Aegean region. In the process, the group gained many new members.

On August 14, 1998, DHKP/C exploded a bomb in front of the Istanbul University Literature Department. The incident injured four people, including one police officer. On September 19, DHKP/C members used an antitank weapon to attack the Instanbul Directorate of Police (Fatih locality). DHKP/C leaders claimed the attack was undertaken to publicize the disappearance of four members captured in March 1998. On October 12, six members were captured in connection to the September incident.

On April 13, 1999, DHKP/C planted a time-delay bomb inside the True Path Party office in Kagithane (Istanbul province). Police officials defused the bomb before it exploded. On June 4, police killed two DHKP/C members when they attempted an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. On September 10, DHKP/C attempted to detonate an explosive device in Istanbul Province at the Labor and Social Security Ministry. However, the bomb was thrown outside where it exploded harmlessly. A second blast later that day at another government building injured twenty people. In both cases, DHKP/C criticized U.S. imperialism as the primary reason for the attacks. On October 6, DHKP/C detonated a bomb on the seventh floor of the Public Works and Settlement Provincial Directorate in the Besiktas locality of Istanbul. Although damage resulted from the bomb, no injuries or deaths occurred.

On March 29, 2000, DHKP/C members detonated a bomb in a bathroom of the Sehitkamil Telekom Directorate building (Gazinantep province). Minor damage resulted, but no one was injured or killed. On March 30, DHKP/C members attempted a bomb detonation at the State Statistic Institute's Istanbul Regional Directorate. Detonation experts defused the bomb without property damage or personnel injury. On May 11, a time-delay bomb was detonated in a bathroom of the TEDAS building (Gaziantep province). The resulting explosion at the building, which housed the state-run electricity company, did not injure or kill anyone.

On January 1, 2001, DHKP/C detonated a pipe bomb at a New Year Eve's celebration in Istanbul. The incident injured ten people. On January 3, DHKP/C conducted its first suicide bombing when it targeted people working on the fifth floor of the Sisli District Security Directorate in Istanbul. The bomb killed two men (one man and the bomber) and injured two police officers. DHKP/C leaders claimed responsibility in response to the imprisonment and subsequent murder of some of its members. On April 1, DHKP/C leaders claimed responsibility for an attack directed at a police vehicle that killed two police officers in the Bahcelievler district (Istanbul province).

On September 10, 2001, DHKP/C conducted its second suicide bombing when it attacked riot police officers at an Istanbul gathering place near the German Consulate. The explosion killed two police officers, a civilian, and the bomber.

DHKP/C did not conduct any known terrorist attacks during 2002.

On April 15, 2003, DHKP/C exploded a device at a McDonald's restaurant in the Sirkeci locality of Istanbul. One person was injured from falling debris. At the same time, another McDonald's restaurant in Istanbul province was bombed. A third attack that same day occurred at the Judge's Club in Tarabyes (Istanbul province). The attack caused the ceiling to collapse, but no casualties occurred. According to DHKP/C leaders, the three attacks were made to protest the Iraqi and Turkish massacres caused by American and allied forces.

On May 20, 2003, a DHKP/C member was killed when a bomb she was wearing exploded prematurely in a bathroom of the Crocodile Cafe (Ankara). One customer was injured. On June 3, five people—including the State Security Court Prosecutor and two police officers—were injured when their automobile was bombed in the Bakirkoy locality of Istanbul. The DHKP/C claimed responsibility, stating that the Turkish government was a "neocolony of America."

On August 10, 2003, DHKP/C exploded a bomb near an Istanbul office (Sisli locality) of the Justice and Development Party. No damage or injuries occurred. The bombing occurred to protest the marriage of the son of Turkey's prime minister.

On April 1, 2004, authorities arrested more than 40 DHKP/C members in raids held across Turkey and Europe. In October, ten of the forty were sentenced to life imprisonment while charges against another twenty were dropped due to the statute of limitations. Between 2002 and 2004, successful counter-attacks by police have significantly weakened the group's ability to carry out its activities.

On June 24, 2004, DHKP/C detonated a bomb (supposedly by mistake) aboard an Istanbul passenger bus. The attack killed four people, including the bomber, and injured at least fifteen others. The police suspected the bomb was intended for retaliation against killings that allegedly occurred in Turkish prisons.

On June 24, 2004, a DHKP/C operative prematurely detonated an explosive device aboard an Istanbul passenger bus. The bomb killed the bomber and three passengers. Police suspected the bombing was performed in connection with the nearby NATO summit.

On July 1, 2005, security guards prevented a suicide bombing at the office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After discovering the bomber, the police killed him as he was running away.

PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS

The philosophy of the DHKP/C is similar to philosophies of other radical Turkish leftist groups. It contends that the Turkish government is a fascist-type government that is controlled by Western imperialistic organizations, especially the United States and NATO. The group is dedicated to attacking and eventually destroying these Western groups. The DHKP/C calls its actions "armed propaganda" and its fight against imperialism the "people's war." It targets its membership to the Turkish people such as peasant workers.

The DHKP/C has continued the ideology and goals of the original Dev-Sol group. The group regularly brings attention to its imprisoned members by staging hunger protests and other similar public displays. It actively publicizes the harsh conditions within one- to three-person prison cells that exist in Turkey. Such propaganda is an important strategy within the tactics of DHKP/C.

LEADERSHIP

DURSUN KARATAS

Dursun Karatas is the founder of the DHKP/C. He is considered to have been responsible for the death of thirty-seven people as the result of his involvement with terrorism. Karatas served nine years in prison for terrorism before escaping in October 1989, along with his second-in-command, Bedri Yagan. However, on March 6, 1993, Yagan was killed by Turkish police in a violent confrontation. Later, in April 1992, Karatas barely escaped a police raid in Kartal, Turkey, which killed twelve Dev-Sol members. Karatas is currently in exile somewhere in Western Europe.

During its early years, DHKP/C focused largely on assassinations of political figures and attacks of Turkish military targets. However, a counter-terrorist strategy by the Turkish government in the early 1980s forced the group to end those activities. By the late 1980s, the group was able to resume its attacks against Turkish military and security targets.

The DHKP/C uses forests and mountainous regions as hiding places. These locations are highly prized by DHKP/C because enemy forces have difficulty locating its members and bases from such remote geographical locales.

Beginning in 1990, DHKP/C leaders began a new campaign of targeting foreign interests in Turkey. Included within these attacks were targets of U.S. military and diplomatic personnel, facilities, and materials. The DHKP/C has publicly declared its opposition to U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iran. Its leaders have expressed their contentions that such actions show the imperialist goals of the United States.

Since the end of 2001, DHKP/C members have primarily used improvised explosive devices against Turkish and U.S. targets. Since this time, DHKP/C leaders finance their activities mainly through armed robberies and extortion. Leaders also raise funds through donations largely made from Western Europe, most likely because the majority of its leadership personnel come from countries in Western Europe.

KEY EVENTS

1978:
Dev-Sol is formed in Turkey by Dursun Karatas.
1994:
Dev-Sol is renamed DHKP/C.
1995:
DHKP/C firebombs Turkish Airlines office in Vienna; firebombs five Turkish banks in Cologne.
1996:
DHKP/C makes first terrorist attack at U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. It assassinates Turkish businessman and two associates; attacks several Turkish communities, firebombs a Leverkusen mosque.
1997:
DHKP/C moves from Adana and Osmaniye to Aegean.
1998:
DHKP/C explodes bomb at Instanbul University Literature Department; uses anti-tank weapon on Directorate of Police (Istanbul). Later, six members are captured.
1999:
DHKP/C plants bomb inside True Path Party office (it is defused); attacks U.S. Consulate in Istanbul (two members killed); tries to detonate device at Labor and Social Security Ministry (bomb exploded outside); explodes bomb at government building (twenty persons injured); and detonates bomb at Public Works and Settlement Provincial Directorate.
2000:
DHKP/C detonates bomb at Sehitkamil Telekom Directorate building (minor damage); tries to detonate bomb at State Statistic Institute's Instanbul Regional Directorate (bomb defused); detonates bomb at TEDAS building (no injuries/deaths).
2001:
DHKP/C detonates bomb in Istanbul (ten injured); conducts first suicide bombing at Sisli District Security Directorate (killing two, injuring one); and attacks police car (two killed); conducts second suicide bombing outside German Consulate in Istanbul (kills four).
2003:
DHKP/C member is killed when bomb explodes in Ankara; five people injured when car bombed in Istanbul; explodes bomb near Istanbul office of Justice and Development Party.
2004:
Authorities arrest over forty members.
2004:
DHKP/C detonates bomb aboard Istanbul bus (killing four, injuring fifteen).
2005:
Guards prevent bombing of prime minister's office.

DHKP/C has "several dozen" terrorist operatives inside Turkey and a sizeable support network throughout Europe. The DHKP/C is believed to maintain training facilities and offices in Lebanon and Syria.

PRIMARY SOURCE
Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) a.k.a. Devrimci Sol, Dev Sol, Revolutionary Left

DESCRIPTION

This group originally formed in Turkey in 1978 as Devrimci Sol, or Dev Sol, a splinter faction of Dev Genc (Revolutionary Youth). Renamed in 1994 after factional infighting. "Party" refers to the group's political activities, while "Front" is a reference to the group's militant operations. The group espouses a Marxist-Leninist ideology and is vehemently anti-US, anti-NATO, and anti-Turkish establishment. Its goals are the establishment of a socialist state and the abolition of one- to three-man prison cells, called F-type prisons. DHKP/C finances its activities chiefly through donations and extortion.

ACTIVITIES

Since the late 1980s the group has targeted primarily current and retired Turkish security and military officials. It began a new campaign against foreign interests in 1990, which included attacks against US military and diplomatic personnel and facilities. To protest perceived US imperialism during the Gulf War, Dev Sol assassinated two US military contractors, wounded an Air Force officer, and bombed more than twenty US and NATO military, commercial, and cultural facilities. In its first significant terrorist act as DHKP/C in 1996, the group assassinated a prominent Turkish businessman and two others. DHKP/C added suicide bombings to its repertoire in 2001, with successful attacks against Turkish police in January and September. Since the end of 2001, DHKP/C has typically used improvised explosive devices against official Turkish targets and soft US targets of opportunity; attacks against US targets beginning in 2003 probably came in response to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operations and arrests against the group have weakened its capabilities. DHKP/C did not conduct any major terrorist attacks in 2003, but on June 24, 2004—just days before the NATO summit—an explosive device detonated, apparently prematurely, aboard a passenger bus in Istanbul while a DHKP/C operative was transporting it to another location, killing the operative and three other persons.

STRENGTH

Probably several dozen terrorist operatives inside Turkey, with a large support network throughout Europe. On April 1, 2004, authorities arrested more than forty suspected DHKP/C members in coordinated raids across Turkey and Europe. In October, ten alleged members of the group were sentenced to life imprisonment, while charges were dropped against twenty other defendants because of a statute of limitations.

LOCATION/AREA OF OPERATION

Turkey, primarily Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and Adana. Raises funds in Europe.

EXTERNAL AID

Widely believed to have training facilities or offices in Lebanon and Syria.

Source: U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Terrorism. Washington, D.C., 2004.

OTHER PERSPECTIVES

A December 18, 1999 article by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service reported that Turkish law enforcement and security organizations continue to be concerned with the persistent threat of terrorism and its related violence. These organizations are aware that the DHKP/C, along with other terrorist groups, remains a negative influence on the state of the Turkish government and its citizens.

According to The Turkish Times, as of 2002, the DHKP/C and the radical Islamist group Hezbollah are considered two of the most active terrorist organizations in Turkey.

On September 5, 2003, Mr. M. Vecdi Gönül, the Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Turkey, gave a speech in which he stated that Turkey is located at the center of the problem areas within the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. Since the 1960s, ideological, religious, separatist, state-sponsored, and other types of terrorism have frequently occurred in Turkey. Because of such disagreements within the various terrorist organizations, the DHKP/C was established. For "more than twenty years," Gönül stated that the DHKP/C has continued its "heinous acts of murder and violence." As the result of the DHKP/C and numerous other leftist extremist groups, the government of Turkey remains under a constant threat from terrorism.

SUMMARY

Since it was first established, the DHKP/C has carried out numerous violent attacks in Turkey, primarily targeting the established political and military sectors. Along with these violent activities, the DHKP/C is also very hostile toward the United States, England, and Israel, referring to what it calls "U.S. imperialism" and its close allies. As a result, the United States and the European Union have declared the DHKP/C a terror organization. Within a BBC article, the AFP news agency reported that since 1976, DHKP/C members (or members of predecessor groups) have killed dozens of people, including two retired generals, one former justice minister, and several important businesspersons.

Government officials in Ankara, Turkey, claim that about 100 police officers and soldiers and about eighty civilians have been killed. The BBC article reported that, according to a noted Turkish counter-terrorism expert, the DHKP/C has attempted to gain public notoriety since September 11, 2001 by imitating the terrorist style of Osama bin Laden. In 2005, many of the DHKP/C leaders and its prominent activists live in exile in the four Western European countries of Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy.

SOURCES

Web sites

BBC News UK Edition, British Broadcasting Corporation. "Profile: Turkey's Marxist DHKP-C." 〈http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3591119.stm〉 (accessed October 19, 2005).

Canadian Security Intelligence Service. "Perspectives: Trends in Terrorism." 〈http://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/eng/miscdocs/200001_e.html〉 (accessed October 19, 2005).

International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism. "Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front Attacks: from 1988—the present." 〈http://www.ict.org.il/organizations/orgattack.cfm?orgid=39〉 (accessed October 19, 2005).

MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. "DHKP-C." 〈http://www.tkb.org/Group.jsp?groupID=38〉 (accessed October 19, 2005).

Overseas Security Advisory Council. "Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)." 〈http://www.ds-osac.org/Groups/group.cfm?contentID=1296〉 (accessed October 19, 2005).

The Turkish Times. "PKK and DHKP-C in U.S. Terrorism Report." 〈http://www.theturkishtimes.com/archive/02/06_01/〉 (accessed October 19, 2005).

The Turkish Times. "Shaping a Common Security Agenda for Southeast Europe: New Approaches and Shared Responsibilities." 〈http://www.anticorruption.bg/eng/news/artShow.php?id=1112〉 (accessed October 19, 2005).

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