Turkey car bomb attack: At least 11 killed in blast blamed on Kurdish PKK militants at police headquarters in Cizre

Blast follows a series of explosions targeting police stations in Turkey last week

Lizzie Dearden@lizziedearden
Friday 26 August 2016 07:00
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Video shows aftermath of Turkey car bomb attack in Cizre

At least 11 people have been killed and scores wounded in a lorry bomb targeting a police checkpoint and headquarters in south-eastern Turkey.

The blast struck a guard post just 50 metres from the headquarters in Cizre, near the Syrian border, on Friday morning in the latest of a spate of similar attacks blamed on Kurdish militant groups.

The governor of Şırnak province said at least 11 people were dead and 78 wounded, although there were fears the death toll could rise as recovery work continued.

Television footage showed much of the three-storey building reduced to burning rubble, sending huge plumes of smoke rising into the air.

Rebels linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed the attack. In a statement on the website of the PKK’s military wing, the militant group said the Cizre attack was in retaliation to jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan's “isolation” on his prison island off Istanbul.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim vowed to “destroy" what he called "terrorists”. His deputy, Numan Kurtulmus, said on Twitter that Isis, the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia were all attacking Turkey to take advantage of last month's coup attempt.

“No terrorist organisation can take the Turkish Republic hostage,” Mr Yildirim said in Istanbul. “We will give these scoundrels every response they deserve.”

“This attack, which comes at a time when Turkey is engaged in an intense struggle against terrorist organizations both within and outside its borders, only serves to increase our determination as a country and a nation,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Isis has also launched a series of bombings and assassinations in the period, but has more frequently targeted tourists and landmarks in Istanbul and Ankara, compared to the insurgents’ focus on the government and security services.

The Turkish interior minister, Efkan Ala, accused the PKK of attacking a convoy carrying the main opposition party leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu on Thursday.

The PKK was also suspected of being behind a spate of bombings in recent weeks, claiming responsibility for a blast that killed three officers at Elazig police headquarters on 18 August.

Turkey car bomb Elazig 2

Cizre has been the subject of several curfews by Turkish authorities fighting the PKK, with the UN demanding investigations into reports of civilians including women and children being deliberately shot.

There are also allegations that more than 100 people were burned to death while sheltering in basements in Cizre in February.

More than 600 Turkish security personnel and thousands of PKK militants have been killed in the conflict since last summer, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency, while human rights groups say hundreds of civilians have also been killed amid a crackdown by the armed forces.

They are among at least 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, who have died since the rebels took up arms in 1984.

Amnesty International has condemned the series of “reckless and brutal attacks”.

“Those responsible for these crimes show contempt for the right to life and must be brought to justice,” said Andrew Gardner, the rights group’s Turkey researcher.

It comes amid continuing international alarm over the government’s response to a failed coup to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said more than 40,000 people had been detained since the attempt on 15 July and about half have been formally arrested pending charges.

Those arrested include journalists and academics accused of supporting the Gulen movement, which authorities blame for the coup, and thousands of public sector workers have been suspended or sacked.

Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst at the Levantine Group, told The Independent PKK attacks had increased in both number and sophistication since the failed coup, which saw thousands of army personnel discharged.

Among the senior officers removed from their posts was General Adem Huduti, an alleged coup leader and the commander of Turkey’s Second Army – the division in charge of south-eastern Turkey and the borders with Iraq, Syria and Iran.

“The PKK is taking advantage of the weakening of the army to increase its campaign of attacks,” Mr Horowitz said.

“The PKK may see the aftermath of the coup as an unprecedented opportunity to put pressure on Erdogan’s government, and force him to resume negotiations.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan views Kurdish militias fighting Isis in Syria as an extension of the group, labelling groups backed by the US-led coalition “terrorists”.

Turkey has launched a major operation in the neighbouring country in recent days, sending tanks, special forces and allied Free Syrian Army rebels into Jarablus to drive back the so-called Islamic State.

But the offensive threatens to bring them into conflict with the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an alliance of mostly Kurdish opposition groups who have driven Isis out of swathes of north-eastern Syria.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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