Ankara (AFP): Twelve people were killed in a spate of bombings against Turkish security forces blamed on Kurdish rebels who appear to have ramped up their campaign of attacks in the aftermath of the failed coup.
Turkish officials accused the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of carrying out three bloody attacks in less than 24 hours that for the first time struck areas in the east that are not predominantly Kurdish.
“This nation will never surrender to any terrorist organisation,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Thursday on a visit to the scene of one of the bombings.
The bloodshed comes in the week that the PKK — regarded as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies — marks what is considered to be the 32nd anniversary of its armed rebellion against the Turkish state.
In the deadliest strike, five soldiers and a village guard were killed when a homemade bomb blew up in the path of a military convoy in the southeastern town of Bitlis on Thursday, Turkish media reported.
Just a few hours earlier, three police officers were killed and more than 200 people injured in a car bombing against police headquarters in the eastern city of Elazig, leaving the building largely in ruins.
The city, a conservative nationalist bastion, had been spared much of the violence that has rocked the Kurdish-dominated southeast since a two-and-a-half year ceasefire collapsed in 2015.
And on Wednesday night, two more policemen and a civilian were killed and dozens wounded in a similar attack in the city of Van, not far from the border with Iran.
– ‘Thwart the PKK’ -The rebels appear to have intensified their attacks since the failed attempt on July 15 to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
One senior Turkish politician suggested that the PKK was collaborating with supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, accused by Ankara of orchestrating the coup bid.
“Once again, the attacks in Van and Elazig show how PKK and FETO work together,” former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu wrote on Twitter.
“We will thwart the PKK like we thwarted FETO (Fethullah Terrorist Organisation),” Defence Minister Fikri Isik told the Anadolu news agency, using the name Ankara gives to the movement led by Gulen.
Yildirim, who visited the scene of the attack in Elizag along with several ministers including Isik and army chief Hulusi Akar, said a total of 217 people had been injured, including police and civilians.
A Turkish official said more than 70 civilians and police officers were also wounded in the attack in Van, which has a mixed ethnic Kurdish and Turkish population.
– ‘Exploiting the crisis’ -Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source close to the Turkish government told AFP that the PKK was taking “advantage of the current atmosphere in Turkey”.
“Any terrorist organisation likes to exploit crises,” the source said, referring to the aftermath of the failed putsch which has seen a massive purge of the army, including the dismissal of almost half Turkey’s generals and admirals.
Davutoglu’s suggestions of collaboration between the PKK and so-called Gulenists stand in contrast to the history of tense relations between them.
It has often been said that one of the reasons for the acrimonious split between Erdogan and Gulen is the Turkish leader’s now failed peace push with the Kurds.
More than 600 members of the Turkish security forces have been killed in PKK attacks since the ceasefire collapsed, according to a toll given by Anadolu on July 31.
The government has hit back with deadly military offensives against the group in southeastern Turkey, including punishing curfews on urban areas.
Anadolu said the operations have killed more than 7,000 militants in Turkey and northern Iraq but the toll cannot be independently verified.
Over 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK first took up arms in 1984 in a separatist rebellion led by now jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan.