ANKARA, Turkey, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- A Kurdish militant group operating along the southern border of Turkey has turned parts of the region into marijuana plantations, a report states.
Ankara has focused its military efforts on the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party for decades. Turkish daily newspaper Today's Zaman estimates at least 50,000 people have died as a result of the fighting between Turkish forces and the militant group, known by its Kurdish initials PKK, since the late 1970s.
The newspaper said PKK strongholds along the southeastern border with Iran have became safe-havens for marijuana growers. It reported that the PKK in 2012 could make as much as $50 million from the trade in marijuana and other drugs.
"The rural areas of Diyarbakir and Bingol have largely turned into marijuana plantations, and they also host PKK camps," the newspaper states.
Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek had said Ankara suspected the PKK was funding its militant campaign in Turkey through the illicit drug trade in Europe.
Washington early this year placed four men from Moldova and Romania on its list of designated drug traffickers. The U.S. government said it suspected they were dealing in illicit drugs to raise money for the PKK.