Monday 26 September 2016

Turkey blames Kurdish militants after eight soldiers killed in bombing

Paula Kerr in Ankara

Published 20/08/2015 | 02:30

Turkish soldiers and security members investigate the site after soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb detonated by Kurdish rebels in eastern Turkish city of Siirt, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, Turkish news agencies said. At least 85 people, most of them police and soldiers, have been killed since July in the renewed violence between the security forces and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.(AP Photo/IHA) TURKEY OUT
Turkish soldiers and security members investigate the site after soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb detonated by Kurdish rebels in eastern Turkish city of Siirt, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, Turkish news agencies said. At least 85 people, most of them police and soldiers, have been killed since July in the renewed violence between the security forces and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.(AP Photo/IHA) TURKEY OUT

Eight Turkish soldiers have been killed in a bomb attack in the south-eastern province of Siirt, the army has said.

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The bomb exploded on a highway as a military vehicle was passing. Seven more soldiers were wounded.

No one has admitted the attack, but the army blamed it on Kurdish PKK militants. A further four troops died in gun battles with the PKK in Diyarbakir province. The attacks come amid a wave of violence after a two-year truce failed.

Separately, two people have been arrested after gunfire was heard outside Istanbul's iconic Dolmabahce Palace, which houses offices of the prime minister. Police seized two hand grenades, an automatic rifle, a handgun and ammunition. One policeman was slightly injured in the attack and a third suspect is being sought, the Turkish Anadolu news agency reported.

A statement from the Istanbul governor's office said the attackers were from a "terrorist group" and that they had previously carried out an attack on the Istanbul HQ of the ruling AK party on August 8.

Prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in Ankara at the time of the attack. The palace, in the Besiktas district on the European side of Istanbul, was the main administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire for many years in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The founder of modern Turkey, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, died there in 1938, and the palace is now a major tourist attraction.

A man suspected of belonging to the banned leftist group DHKP-C was arrested in January after attacking guards outside the palace.

The group said it was behind a gun attack on the US consulate in Istanbul by two female assailants earlier this month.

Turkey has been on high alert since launching a two-pronged air campaign against the Isil extremist group in Syria and PKK bases in northern Iraq last month.

Meanwhile, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signalled that he will not give the opposition party's leader the chance to try his hand at forming a government, and said the country was "rapidly" heading toward new elections.

Prime minister Davutoglu returned a mandate to form a government on Tuesday after his coalition-building efforts failed.

Traditionally, other party leaders are given the opportunity.

Mr Erdogan said yesterday that Turkey had no time to lose with those "who don't even know the address" of his palace. It was a reference to Kemal Kilicdaroglu, whose party has boycotted events at Erdogan's new 1,150-room palace.

The deadline for a new government ends this week. Erdogan reportedly wants new elections, hoping that the ruling party can win back a majority it lost in elections in June.

Irish Independent

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