Turkey bracing for more violence after bomb attacks
ISTANBUL - Turkey is bracing itself for further violence after suspected Kurdish suicide bombers killed 37 people in Ankara and Kurdish rebels threatened to step up their campaign amid ongoing clashes in cities in the south-east.
Two bombers, identified by Turkish officials as a 24-year-old woman and a man, detonated their car filled with explosives near a busy bus stop in central Ankara on March 13th, the second big attack in the Turkish capital within a month. A car bomb close by killed 30 people on February 17th.
The government blamed both attacks on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting the Turkish state for more than three decades. Peace talks between the government and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan broke down last summer, shattering a two-year ceasefire and triggering a new wave of violence. Security forces and units of the PKK, designated terrorists by Turkey and the West, have been engaged in house-to-house fighting in predominantly Kurdish south-east Anatolia for months.
No group has claimed responsibility for the March 13th attack. But the Turkish Interior Ministry said one of the bombers was a woman who joined the PKK in 2013 and had received military training from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main Kurdish force in Syria, which has links with the PKK. The Turkish government also blamed the February 17th attack on the YPG, but that attack was claimed by a Turkish PKK splinter group, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK).
The March 13th attack could mark a new escalation of the Kurdish conflict, as the PKK has traditionally directed its wrath against the Turkish security forces and not civilians.
With the Kurdish new year Newroz on March 21st just days away, fears of more attacks are rising. At the height of the Kurdish conflict in the 1990s, Newroz was a focal point of the PKK’s fight against Ankara, with frequent clashes and attacks.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for legal changes to broaden the definition of the term “terrorism”, in an apparent attempt to make it easier to prosecute non-violent actions and statements seen as supporting the PKK or other terrorist groups.