Vendredi 2 decembre 2005 à 18h36
ISTANBUL, Dec 2 (AFP) — Turkish police have detained 17 people in an operation against a gang that allegedly forced Kurdish children into theft and was linked to separatist Kurdish rebels, officials said Friday.
The suspects were apprehended in Istanbul and Diyarbakir, the central city of Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast from where the children were brought and forced into pocket-picking, purse-snatching and theft, Istanbul police chief Celalettin Cerrah was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency.
The operation was the result of a 10-month probe launched by the police after they discovered that people investigated for drug-trafficking were also bringing children to Istanbul, he said.
Part of the narcotic pills the gang was peddling belonged to "the separatist terrorist organization," Cerrah said, using the officialese for the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought Ankara since 1984.
The PKK, blacklisted as a terrorist group by Turkey as well as the European Union and the United States, has long been accused of drug-trafficking to finance its armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule in the southeast.
Police seized 11 unlicensed weapons, ammunition and fake identity cards in the homes and buildings used by the suspects, Cerrah said.
Juvenile crime in Turkey has notably increased over the past several years, which saw the country battling severe financial turmoil.
The problem is particularly rife in Diyarbakir, where chronic economic woes have been further aggravated with the arrival of thousands of impoverished migrants from surrounding villages, displaced by the Kurdish conflict in the region.
An official report published Thursday said children as young as five are also being forced by their parents, mostly Kurdish migrants, to work on the streets of Istanbul.