Turkey hits PKK targets in Iraq after Ankara bombing

Funerals held for victims of Sunday’s blast in the capital as jets strike Kurdish group’s bases in Qandil mountains.

Turkey’s air force has hit Kurdish targets in northern Iraq after a car bombing struck the Turkish capital, Ankara, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 70 others.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said nine F-16s and two F-4 jets on Monday raided 18 positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), including the Qandil mountains where the group’s leadership is based.

The retaliation was reported as funerals were held in Ankara for the victims of Sunday’s bombing.

The air strikes targeted ammunition depots, bunkers and shelters.

The Turkish military said the targets were hit “with precision”, and a PKK spokesman confirmed the strikes.

Talk to Al Jazeera – Davutoglu on ISIL, Syrian refugees, and Ankara bombing

Police also carried out raids in the southern city of Adana, detaining suspected PKK members, Anadolu reported.

The private Dogan news agency said at least 36 suspects were taken into custody.

Fifteen suspected Kurdish fighters were also detained in Istanbul, Anadolu said.

Mehmet Muezzinoglu, Turkey’s health minister, gave a toll of 37 on Monday but said this included at least one attacker and possibly two.

Security officials told Reuters news agency that a female member of PKK was one of two suspected perpetrators.

A police source said her severed hand had been found 300 metres from the blast site.

The second suspected bomber was a male Turkish citizen with links to PKK, Reuters cited a Turkish security official as saying.

There has not been any claim of responsibility for the bombing.

Sunday’s attack was the second powerful blast to rock Ankara in three weeks.

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Witnesses said the blast set vehicles on fire and heavily damaged several buses.

The explosion sent burning debris showering down over an area a few hundred metres from the justice and interior ministries, a top courthouse, and the former office of the prime minister.

“These attacks, which threaten our country’s integrity and our nation’s unity and solidarity, do not weaken our resolve in fighting terrorism but bolster our determination,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement.

Local broadcasters reported that an Ankara court ordered a ban on access to Facebook, Twitter and other sites in Turkey after images from the car bombing were shared on social media.

 Sunday's attack, which claimed 37 lives, was the second powerful bombing to strike Ankara in three weeks [Reuters]
 Sunday’s attack, which claimed 37 lives, was the second powerful bombing to strike Ankara in three weeks [Reuters]

Sunday’s attack comes only three weeks after a suicide car bombing in Ankara targeted buses carrying military personnel, killing 29 people.

“We know how and when we will respond,” Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s prime minister, told Al Jazeera in an interview, referring to the February attack.

“Definitely, those who made this attack against our people will pay the price. But how and when, we will decide. And when it happens, everybody will see that Turkey can respond [to] any challenges and any attack against it.”

A Kurdish armed group, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), which is an offshoot of the outlawed PKK, claimed responsibility for that attack. TAK says it split from the PKK.

There has not been any claim of responsibility for the Ankara bombing as of Monday [Reuters]
There has not been any claim of responsibility for the Ankara bombing as of Monday [Reuters]

Turkey has been fighting on multiple fronts. As part of a US-led coalition, it is battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), which has seized territory in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

It is also battling the outlawed PKK in its southeast, where a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire collapsed last July, prompting the worst violence since the 1990s.

Turkey sees the unrest in its largely Kurdish southeast as deeply linked to events in northern Syria, where the Kurdish YPG militia had been seizing territory as it fights both ISIL and rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad.

READ MORE: Turkish PM – Those who attack ‘will pay the price’

Turkey fears those gains will stir separatist ambitions among its own Kurds and has long argued that the YPG and PKK have close ideological and operational ties.

In its armed campaign in Turkey, the PKK has historically struck directly at the security forces and says it does not target civilians.

ISIL has carried out at least four bomb attacks on Turkey since June 2015, including a suicide bombing which killed 10 German tourists in central Istanbul in January.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies