23rd Mar 2023

Turkey targets Kurdish rebels after bomb attack

  • Ankara attacks shock Turkey, opponents blame Erdogan (Photo: Jorge Franganillo)

Turkish military planes pounded Kurdish rebel targets on Sunday (11 October), one day after the worst bomb attack in the country's history killed up to 128 people and injured hundreds at a pro-Kurdish rally in Ankara.

The planes struck Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey, killing some 30-35 fighters, despite the militant group calling for a ceasefire and ordering its fighters to halt attacks on Turkish soil.

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Ankara dismissed the PKK declaration as a ploy.

The renewed attacks on Kurdish targets comes after bombs detonated just seconds apart in Ankara on Satursday, as crowds gathered for a march to protest over the deaths of hundreds of people since the collapse of a ceasefire between security forces and the rebel PKK in July.

The scale of the attacks was bigger than the one in 2003, which was blamed on al-Qaeda, when two synagogues, the Istanbul HSBC Bank headquarters and the British consulate were hit, killing 62 people.

There was disagreement on the number of victims, as the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) said the death toll had risen to 128, while the prime minister's office said late on Saturday that 95 people had been killed.

Turkish security officials blamed the Islamic State, which holds swathes of Syrian land bordering Turkey, but the group made no claim to the bombing.

Security sources told Reuters that the Ankara attack bore similarities to a July suicide bombing in Suruc near the Syrian border, also blamed on the Islamists.

Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Islamic State, Kurdish militant factions or far-leftist radicals could all have carried out Saturday's bombing.


The attacks came amid heightened tensions in Turkey ahead of snap elections on 1 November.

At the June ballot, the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority after gains by the HDP, which was involved in Saturday's rally.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to regain AKP's overall majority after the November vote.

Saturday's attacks raised questions over whether the parliamentary election can be held safely.

Protests erupted in Ankara and Istambul after the bombings, with opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blaming the government for failing to stop the attacks.

As three days of mourning began on Sunday, mourners in Istanbul chanted, "The killer government will be held accountable for its crimes!"

Thousands of people gathered near the scene of the attack at the capital's main railway station, chanting "Murderer Erdogan", "Murderer police."

Protestors were accusing Erdogan of stirring nationalist sentiment by the military campaign against Kurdish militants, something the government denies.

HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas said on Sunday that the government had blood on its hands, accusing it of failing to fully investigate the Suruc bombing or another attack on an HDP election rally in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on the eve of the last parliamentary election in June, Reuters reported.

However, government officials made clear that, despite the security concerns, elections would go ahead.

Europe postponed

EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner Johannes Hahn postponed their visits to Turkey on Sunday.

The EU officials were supposed to negotiate further on an action plan the Commission would like Turkey to carry out to help Europe stem the flow of migrants.

Several thousand people, mostly Kurds, demonstrated in Paris and Brussels over the weekend protesting the violence against Kurds and condemning the Ankara attacks.

EU unveils Turkey migration plan

The Commission has unveiled a plan on how to stem the flow of migrants from Turkey, including extra funds and a joint crackdown on smugglers.

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EU leaders will discuss ways to get Turkey's help on stemming the flow of refugees at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.


Turkey's election — the Erdoğan vs Kılıçdaroğlu showdown

Turkey goes to the polls in May for both a new parliament and new president, after incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided against a post-earthquake postponement. The parliamentary outcome is easy to predict — the presidential one less so.

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