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Q amp A Çağlayan Courthouse Attack

Q&A: Çağlayan Courthouse Attack

What happened? Who are the attackers? What was the goal of the attack? How is Türkiye combating DHKP-C? What does this mean for the future?

  1. What happened?
The Çağlayan Courthouse in Istanbul, Türkiye, became the target of a terrorist attack on Feb. 6, 2024, at 11:46 a.m. [1] Security forces at the courthouse’s C-entrance stopped the assailants, who had arrived on public transportation, for a body search. In response, one of the terrorists used pepper spray on the officers, before opening fire. [2] The attack resulted in the death of one civilian and both attackers, while six people, including three police officers and three civilians, sustained injuries. [3] Footage of the incident revealed that one terrorist was fatally shot in the head just as he was about to throw an object into a crowd of fleeing individuals. Subsequently, a second attacker emerged, dropped a bag, and proceeded to fire a handgun at the police officer who had neutralized the first assailant. [4] The perpetrators were identified as Pınar Birkoç and Emrah Yayla, both affiliated with the leftist terrorist organization Devrimci Halk Kurtuluş Partisi-Cephesi or Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C). [5] The DHKP-C, originally founded in 1978 as Devrimci Sol (Revolutionary Left/Dev Sol) and later renamed in 1994, has been involved in several major terrorist attacks. These include the assassination of Özdemir Sabancı in 1996 and the killing of Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz on March 31, 2015. It is worth noting that the hostage-taking and killing of Kiraz occurred at the same Çağlayan Courthouse.
  1. Who are the attackers?
The first attacker, Pınar Birkoç, served a 10-month prison sentence in 2019 for participating in a memorial service related to the Dec. 19-22 events. However, this sentence was later revised to 19 years after she was identified as a member of an armed terrorist organization. Emrah Yayla, the second attacker, was arrested in 2008[6] and sentenced to 15 years in prison on various charges, including membership in a terrorist organization, illegal possession of explosives, resisting arrest, and insulting state officers. He was released in February 2021. [7] Yayla's brothers, Mehmet, Şafak, and Bulut Yayla, were all deeply involved with DHKP-C. They were all implicated in activities such as smuggling weapons for the organization and participating in attacks. Notably, Şafak Yayla was one of the two DHKP-C terrorists who attacked Prosecutor Kiraz in 2015.
  1. What was the goal of the attack?
Given that both attackers are deceased, and neither the authorities nor the DHKP-C has issued a public statement, the exact goals of the attack remain speculative and should be viewed cautiously. An important detail is that Necmiye Birkoç, Pınar Birkoç’s elder sister, was due to appear at a Çağlayan criminal court shortly after the attack. She faced charges of "possession of dangerous substances" and "membership in an armed terrorist organization." Following the incident, Necmiye Birkoç was arrested while another sister along with three others were also detained. The attack bears striking similarities to the 2015 killing of Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz. It is plausible that the attackers may have intended to take another state employee, for instance, a judge or a prosecutor, hostage, to secure the release of individuals involved in Necmiye Birkoç’s case. Alternatively, the attack could be connected to the anniversary of the Feb. 6, 2023, earthquake. The terrorists may have sought to exploit the attack and the anniversary to exact retribution on the Turkish government and place blame on those they perceive as responsible.
  1. How is Türkiye combating DHKP-C?
In early 2023, then-Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu declared that the grassroots structures of most leftist terrorist organizations, including the DHKP-C, had been neutralized.[8] This assertion aligns with the observed trend in operations against the DHKP-C, which predominantly operates in urban settings. Throughout the year, many actions were taken against DHKP-C operatives:
  • In March, four DHKP-C suspects were detained in Istanbul.[9]
  • In May, Kamile Kayır, the head of the DHKP-C Türkiye committee, received a 16-year prison sentence while eight DHKP-C suspects were detained, three of whom were subsequently arrested.[10]
  • In July, a wanted DHKP-C member was apprehended in Istanbul, and a DHKP-C shelter was discovered during Search and Destroy missions in the northern city of Tokat.[11]
  • August saw the filing of indictments against 12 suspected DHKP-C members in an Istanbul court, highlighting some members' illegal entry into Türkiye from Greece.[12]
  • In September, 10 DHKP-C suspects were detained at the İdil Cultural Center in Istanbul, leading to the arrest of two individuals.[13]
  • October witnessed the detention of six DHKP-C suspects in Istanbul’s Sultangazi district, with the seizure of a handgun and 50 rounds of ammunition. Additionally, five suspects were detained in Istanbul’s Sarıyer. Four terrorists, in the meanwhile, were killed after opening fire on security forces while attempting to illegally cross the border.[14]
  • November saw the detention of four DHKP-C suspects in Ankara, 23 in Istanbul, and 17 in İzmir.[15]
  • In December, one wanted DHKP-C suspect was arrested in Sarıyer and another in Sancaktepe district, while 14 suspects were detained in Istanbul and Tunceli, with five arrests made.[16]
These events underscore Türkiye's ongoing efforts to combat the DHKP-C. Although the DHKP-C may seem weakened, it remains a threat, particularly during times when organizations actively seek to stage attacks and garner attention.
  1. What does this mean for the future?
The operational capacity of the terrorist organization has been reduced, which may lead to rarer and more low-profile attacks in Türkiye. Daesh and the DHKP-C are facing difficulties in procuring weapons, explosives, and financing for their attacks, as evidenced by the weapons used in their recent attacks and the lack of weapon discoveries in DHKP-C operations in Türkiye. Both organizations have resorted to using handguns in their recent attacks. Major attacks require collaboration among multiple intra and inter-organization groups, which has become a challenging task for these organizations. Daesh's capacity for such collaboration has diminished, which could potentially lead to an increase in lone-wolf attacks. On the other hand, the DHKP-C was intercepted while attempting to smuggle more sophisticated weapons into Türkiye. Recent events, such as the arrest of a DHKP-C member in Greece for weapons procurement and the elimination of DHKP-C members by the Turkish Gendarmerie on the Greco-Turkish border, indicate the ongoing efforts to prevent large-scale attacks.[17] Despite actively seeking attack opportunities, the DHKP-C's limited resources are likely to confine them to small-scale and low-profile attacks. [1] Ali Yerlikaya, X (formerly known as Twitter), February 6, 2024, [2] Ali Yerlikaya, X (formerly known as Twitter), February 6, 2024, [3] “İstanbul Adliyesi’ne saldırı girişiminde bulunan 2 DHKP/C’li terörist etkisiz hale getirildi”, Anadolu Agency, February 6, 2024, [4] Voice of Levant, X (formerly known as Twitter), February 6, 2024, [5] Yeşildal, Z et al., “İstanbul Adliyesi’ne yönelik terör saldırısında 1 kişi hayatını kaybetti”, Anadolu Agency, February 6 2024, [6] “AYM’den DHKP-C'li terörist Emrah Yayla hakkında şoke eden "hak ihlali" kararı!”, Bengü Türk, February 6 2024, [7] Middle East News, X (formerly known as Twitter), February 6, 2024, [8] Gemici. O.O. & Gündoğmuş , Y.N. “İçişleri Bakanı Soylu: DHKP/C, TKP/ML, MLKP ve MKP terör örgütlerinin kırsal yapısı tamamen bitirildi” Anadolu Agency, January 13 2023, [9] İstanbul'da DHKP-C'ye operasyon: 4 gözaltı“, TRT Haber, March 28 2023, [10] Yeşildal, Z. “Terör örgütü DHKP-C'nin sözde "Türkiye komitesi sorumlusu" 16 yıl 3 ay hapse çarptırıldı”, Anadolu Agency, May 24, 2023,; “Terör örgütü DHKP/C operasyonunda gözaltına alınan 3 şüpheli tutuklandı“ TRT Haber, May 26 2023, [11] Gökmen, E. „Kesinleşmiş hapis cezası bulunan terör örgütü DHKP-C üyesi tutuklandı“, Anadolu Agency, July 13 2023,; “Tokat'ta DHKP-C sığınağı bulundu”, Sözcü, July 26 2023, [12] Yeşildal, Z “DHKP/C'nin gençlik yapılanması soruşturmasında 12 sanık hakkında dava açıldı“ Anadolu Agencym August 11 2023, [13] Evren Korkmaz, D. „İstanbul'da DHKP-C operasyonu: 10 gözaltı”, Hürriyet, September 8 2023,; “İstanbul'da DHKP/C terör örgütüne operasyon: 10 şüpheli yakalandı” Yeni Safak, September 12 2023, [14] “DHKP/C Silahlı Terör Örgütüne Yönelik Operasyon Düzenlendi”, Ministry of Interior, October 20 2023,; “İstanbul'da DHKP/C operasyonu: 5 gözaltı “, TRT Haber, October 13 2023,; Turan, H. “1’i kadın 4 terörist etkisiz hale getirilmişti! Edirne sınırındaki DHKP-C operasyonunda şok detaylar“ Sabah, November 27 2023, [15] Bal, Y.S. “Ankara'da terör örgütleri DHKP/C ve TKP/ML'ye yönelik soruşturmalarda 18 gözaltı”, Anadolu Agency, November 21 2023,; “İstanbul'da DHKP/C operasyonu: 23 gözaltı“, TRT Haber, November 21 2023,; “İzmir’de DHKP/C operasyonu: 17 gözaltı“, NTV, November 8 2023,,xBRBt3xSG0iF4FUo8cpiSw [16]“ HAKKINDA DHKP/C ÜYELİĞİNDEN 9 YIL KESİNLEŞMİŞ HAPİS CEZASI BULUNAN KİŞİ İSTANBUL'DA YAKALANDI”, Anka Haber, December 23, 2023,; “MİT ve Emniyet'ten DHKP-C operasyonu: Aranan örgüt üyesi yakalandı“, TRT Haber.December 21 2023,; “İstanbul ve Tunceli'de DHKP/C operasyonu: 14 şüpheliden 5'i tutuklandı” 24 TV, December 14 2023, [17] Karamitrou M. “Turks of the DHKP-C organization were arrested by anti-terrorist forces in Greece”, CNN Greece, November 14 2023,; Turan, H. “1’i kadın 4 terörist etkisiz hale getirilmişti! Edirne sınırındaki DHKP-C operasyonunda şok detaylar“ Sabah, November 27 2023, By Mehmet Salah Devrim, Revised by Sibel Düz