You are on page 1of 2

ÖCALAN’S CAPTURE.

Abdullah Öcalan was born in 1948 in Ömerli, a village in the Halfeti district in Ufra province in southeast Turkey. He studied political science at Ankara University. After completing his studies, he entered the civil service at Diyarbakir. Öcalan was influenced by the situation of the Kurdish people, who, he believed, were denied by the Turkish state the right to live according to their own cultural identity. He became an active member of the Democratic Cultural Association of the East, a group promoting the rights of the Kurdish people. In 1984 the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) began to launch attacks against the governments in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey with the goal of creating an independent Kurdish state. Approximately 30,000 people died as a result of the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK. Öcalan was considered a terrorist by the Turkish government. Until 1998 Syria harbored Öcalan. As the situation in Turkey deteriorated, the Turkish government openly threatened Syria not to support the PKK. As a result, the Syrian government forced Öcalan to leave the country, although it did not hand him over to the Turkish authorities. Öcalan went to Russia first, and from there he moved to various countries, including Italy and then Greece and Kenya. In late November 1998 Turkish prime minister Bluent Ecevit asked Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu if the Mossad could help to capture Öcalan. For Israel, a close working relationship with Turkey was considered an important strategic factor as part of its Periphery Doctrine. Netanyahu agreed and instructed the director of the Mossad, Efraim Halevy, to trace Öcalan for Turkey. The plan to trace Öcalan was code-named Watchful. Six Mossad agents were dispatched to Rome, including a woman assistant— a position known in Mossad jargon as Bath Levayah—and two technicians. The team set up surveillance on Öcalan’s apartment close to the Vatican, but Öcalan suddenly left Italy before being found. The Mossad team then began to search for him in most Mediterranean countries; however, it learned that on 2 February 1999 Öcalan had attempted to enter the Netherlands but was turned away by Dutch authorities. Sources within Schiphol Airport security informed the Mossad that Öcalan had boarded a flight to Nairobi. Kenya was considered easy terrain for the Mossad, since the relations between the intelligence communities had developed over the years into fruitful cooperation. Soon Öcalan was traced near the Greek embassy compound in Nairobi, with his Kurdish bodyguards going in and out frequently. The Mossad team reported daily to Tel Aviv on every move around the compound and was ordered simply to continue to watch until the instruction was given to capture Öcalan. The Mossad learned that Öcalan had been turned down for political asylum in South Africa and other African countries. A member of the Mossad team with Kurdish appearance phoned one of the Kurdish bodyguards whose identity had became known when he was seen emerging from the embassy en route to the Norfolk Hotel. The Mossad agent suggested a meeting in town, at which the agent told the Kurd that Öcalan’s life would be in danger if he remained in the compound. He suggested that Öcalan move to the mountains of northern Iraq, where he would be safe. This was an idea that Öcalan himself had started to consider, as the Mossad had learned by intercepting his phone calls from the Greek embassy. Eventually Öcalan took the bait. On 15 February 1999 a Falcon 900 executive jet landed at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport. The pilot told the airport authorities that he had come to pick up a group of businessmen. In fact, Öcalan was by

some means placed aboard the jet. According to some reports, Öcalan had been drugged by the Mossad agents. Other versions maintain that capturing Öcalan was a joint venture by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Mossad. Öcalan was flown to Turkey for trial. After his capture, he declared a “peace offensive” and the 15-year rebellion ceased, although there were several isolated incidents, often by groups posing as the PKK. Öcalan has been held in solitary confinement on Imrali Island in the Turkish Sea of Marmara since his capture. Though initially sentenced to death, this sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was conditionally abolished in Turkey in August 2002. Although no one has publicly admitted that the Mossad was involved in the Öcalan affair, the Mossad as a result lost a Kurdish spy network in Iraq. The Öcalan case reveals how the Mossad sometimes works as a contractor for other governments, as in the Ben-Barka Affair.