Turkey unleashes airstrikes on Kurds after Ankara suicide bomb

Family members and relatives of one of the Ankara car bombing victims break down over their loved ones coffin yesterday. Picture: Getty Images
Family members and relatives of one of the Ankara car bombing victims break down over their loved ones coffin yesterday. Picture: Getty Images
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Turkey’s air force hit Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq yesterday, hours after a suicide car bombing in the capital killed 37 people, heightening tensions with the militants.

Nine F-16s and two F-4 jets raided 18 positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, including the Qandil mountains where its leadership is based. Ammunition depots, bunkers and shelters were among the targets hit.

Police, meanwhile, carried out raids in the southern city of Adana, detaining 38 suspected PKK rebels. Fifteen suspects were also detained in Istanbul, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Health minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said three more people died overnight from wounds suffered in Sunday’s suicide attack that targeted buses and people waiting at bus stops in the centre of Ankara. Around 125 people were wounded, with 71 people hospitalised. Of those, 15 were in serious condition.

A senior official said the attack was carried out by two Kurdish bombers.

It was the second deadly attack blamed on Kurdish militants in the capital in the past month and president Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to bring “terrorism to its knees”.

On 17 February, a suicide car bomb targeted buses carrying military personnel, killing 29. A Kurdish militant group, which is an offshoot of the PKK, claimed responsibility.

Turkey is grappling with a host of issues, including renewed fighting with Kurdish rebels, tensions with a Syrian Kurdish militia group affiliated with the PKK, threats from Islamic State and a Syrian refugee crisis. About 210 people have died in five suicide bombings in ­Turkey since July.

“All five attacks are linked to the fallout of the Syrian civil war,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey expert at the Washington Institute. “Ankara’s ill-executed Syria policy has exposed Turkey to great risks.The question, unfortunately, is not if there will be a terror attack again, but when.”

Sunday’s blast came as ­Turkey’s forces were preparing to launch operations against militants in two Kurdish towns after authorities imposed curfews there.

The operation in Nusaybin, on the border with Syria, began yesterday, Anadolu said. Tanks have also been deployed in Yuksekova, near the border with Iraq.

Authorities yesterday announced another curfew, in the city of Sirnak, near the border with Iraq, signalling that the military was also preparing to battle Kurdish militants there.