Turkey’s leaders on Thursday blamed top enemies, including Kurdish militant groups in Turkey and in Syria as well as the Syrian government, for the suicide bombing in Ankara and vowed strong retaliation against the perpetrators, threatening to further complicate the Syria conflict.
The rush hour car-bomb attack on Wednesday evening targeting buses carrying military personnel killed 28 people and injured dozens of others as Turkey grapples with an array of issues, including renewed fighting with the Kurdish rebels, the threat from Islamic State militants and the Syria refugee crisis. The blast was the second deadly bombing in Ankara in four months.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters that a Syrian national with links to Syrian Kurdish militia carried out the attack in collaboration with Turkey’s own outlawed Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Davutoglu also accused Syria’s government of responsibility for allegedly backing the Syrian Kurdish militia.
The attack came as Turkey had been pressing the US to cut off support to the Kurdish Syrian militias, which Turkey regards as terrorists because of their affiliation with the PKK. The US already lists the PKK as a terror group. But Washington relies heavily on the Syrian Democratic Union Party, or PYD, and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in the battle against the Islamic State group and has rejected Turkish pressure.
Turkish artillery has been shelling PYD and YPG positions along its border in Syria, apparently concerned by a series of recent gains by the militias in the area. Any Turkish escalation against the PYD is likely to further strain ties with the US.
“It has been determined with certainty that this attack was carried out by members of the separatist terror organization together with a member of the YPG who infiltrated from Syria,” Davutoglu said, identifying the bomber as Syrian national Salih Neccar, born in 1992.
Neccar, whose name sounds Kurdish, was born in the mostly-Kurdish populated Syrian town of Amouda, near the Turkish border, according to Davutoglu.
At least 14 people were arrested since Wednesday in connection with the attacks, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that the numbers of suspects detained was likely to increase.
The leader of the main Syrian Kurdish group, Salih Muslim, denied that his group was behind the Ankara attack in an interview with The Associated Press and warned Turkey against taking ground action in Syria.
Erdogan insisted evidence obtained by the Turkish authorities pointed to the group.
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SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor; The Associated Press, Suzan Fraser